Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
In Part 1, I asked the question, Are you a cynical person? Back in 2003 Hillary Clinton said that the worst thing that can happen in a democracy, as well as in an individual’s life, is to become cynical about the future and lose hope.
Now, I think that’s very true and I’m sure there have been many people through life who see things in the ‘half-empty glass’ concept rather than ‘half-full’. Now, if you are a cynical type of person, how do you undo it?
Call out to God for hope
Romans 15:13 says: “So I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Paul in Romans declares, “If God is on our side, can anyone be against us?” (Romans 8:31). And in Philippians he proclaims: “God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain He won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6). Our victory over negative thinking and cynical thoughts is God’s victory. He began it and will finish it. And a bit later in Philippians Paul also states: “God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey Him” (Philippians 2:13). Our victory is God’s victory. He is working in us to act according to his good purpose.
I think it’s important to remember that faith is not trusting that God will do this thing or that thing, but faith is trusting in God; that he is good, and that in spite of the circumstances as they presently stand, the God we worship “works all things for the good of those who love him and are the called according to his purposes.”
What can we do if we struggle with cynicism?
I’ve found a few more things that might be helpful, and are merely things that balance out what is normally an unbalanced Christian walk.
Quit thinking about yourself all of the time. When I think about myself and my own needs for too long it’s hard not to begin feeling sorry for myself—it becomes easy to overlook our own sin, and justify it as simply a ‘psychological’ reaction to these things which were done to me. I’ve done this—I do this.
It’s good to occasionally take a look at yourself—to see what might contribute to one’s tendency to act this way or that, in response to certain things that others do to us. But, this does not relieve me of my guilt! My sin in not someone else’s fault! I own my sin! Navel-gazing ultimately can lead to nothing but self-pity, and a judgemental attitude towards others. Quite the opposite of Philippians 2:3-4, which says, “Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves”.
If you truly struggle with navel-gazing, maybe you might try doing an act of service. Find a worthwhile charity and offer your services—just do something that isn’t for you, and see if it doesn’t bring you joy and gratification.
Remember God’s sovereignty
Throughout the Bible it is clear that all things are ultimately under God’s lordship—even the free decisions of man. Remember that God truly is good, and has our best interests in mind, even when circumstances seem to the contrary. God can even use your own sin to ultimately work for your own good.
Now, that’s not a call to sin, but isn’t that amazing! Can you believe that? Have you taken that to heart? Paul did—he followed God joyfully even in his darkest moments. Even Jesus; the Bible says Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before him.” This means that pain is not meaningless.
Read Romans 5:3-5: “…We also celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance, which shapes our characters. When our characters are refined, we learn what it means to hope and anticipate God’s goodness. And hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need because the Holy Spirit that was given to us has flooded our hearts with God’s love.” (The Voice)
Don’t show contempt for God’s kindness!
Be reminded of your own sinfulness and your own need for grace. If you find yourself dealing with others in a way that seems pessimistic or cynical, remember that you too are human—you, too, have sin. So, they might have hurt you—have you hurt someone? Ultimately, we all have in a sense ‘hurt’ God by breaking our covenant with him. You are no better or worse than any of those of whom you are cynical.
The Bible’s teaching is quite clear: As God has forgiven you, so you ought to forgive one another. So, cheer up, don’t be so cynical; be positive and allow God to help you.
Some parts of this devotional have been sourced from “Cynicism. Pessimism, and the Christian Hope”, 4 August 2007, Heat and Light, www.heatlight.wordpress.com