In the wake of an event such as the Newtown tragedy or the Christmas tsunami of 2004, many will wonder how Christians can possibly exercise the virtue of hope. The deaths of innocents at the hand of a madman or of hundreds of thousands through natural disaster would seem to preclude the possibility of hoping in a loving God who actively cares for the world that he has made. But hope, as G.K. Chesterton pointed out, has little to do with conventional optimism. The person of authentic hope is not compelled to hold that suffering, tragedy, conflict, and the deaths of innocent people will simply disappear through the intervention of God.
Take a good hard look at the Bible. Every page of the Scriptures was written by someone who believed passionately in God, yet the Bible is filled with accounts of tragedies and disasters of all stripes: rape, murder, genocide, military collapse, political distress, etc. Jeremiah hoped in the Lord, and he watched the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians; David hoped in Yahweh, even as he was relentlessly pursued by Saul; Paul hoped in God, and he himself was mocked, tortured, and finally put to death. An optimist might think that God's existence is irreconcilable with evil, but a person of hope never assents to such a naïve proposition. To hope, in the theological sense, is to know that God finally is the sovereign master of the universe and hence that the drama of both nature and history is, at the end of the day and despite all darkness, a divine comedy. When the great English mystic Juliana of Norwich said, "All will be well, all manner of things will be well," she was not chirping optimistically about the disappearance of evil; she was exhibiting hope that God's triumph is assured.