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The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To Increase knowledge only increases sorrow. - Ecclesiastes 1:18 (NLT)
Cynicism is tricky business. I don’t count myself a cynical person, but this week I’ve been challenged to examine my heart to see where cynicism has infiltrated my attitude and beliefs. I’ll give you an example: It always seems like one of my kids will start to beg me for something to eat at odd times of the day. Now history tells me that if I pour my child a bowl of cereal and set it on the table, there is a 95% chance the bowl will remain full of soggy wheat particles an hour later. So what I typically do is pour a smaller bowl of cereal than normal, so as not to waste too much food. As I do this, a voice in my head says, “You don’t even want to eat anything; you just wanted to make me do something for you!”
And there it is. Wisdom tells me to ration the cereal. Cynicism tells me to doubt my child’s motives. Because I am tired, I am quick to become bitter at my child for what feels like an exercise in futility—making yet another meal that I assume will be wasted and discarded.
This might be a silly example, but it’s meant to illustrate just how subtly cynicism has infected my parenting. And it’s rampant in our marriages. And it prospers in issues like politics, climate change, abortion, religion, sports… it’s not only that we don’t trust each other anymore, it’s that we assume the worst, too.
Deep inside the cynic is a time-worn, embattled heart that has been barraged by a cocktail of disappointment, broken trust, compromised ideals, and erosion of faith. Left unchecked, cynicism will suffocate joy. There is hope for the cynic, but we need to be able to recognize the problem before we can begin to heal.
Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. - Ecclesiastes 1:4-5 (NLT)
Have you ever had a season in your life where it seemed like every day was a blur? You woke up, did a full day’s activities, came home and someone asked, “What did you do today?” and you replied, “Oh, nothing.” Or have you ever gotten in your car and ended up at your destination with no recollection of the drive in-between?
I’m aware of this when I find my eyes glance up toward the sky on a morning drive and think, “Wow, the sky looks beautiful this morning.” But how many mornings is the sky this beautiful and I simply don’t notice? What was it about the colors this morning that caught my eye? Was it the way the rays burned holes through the clouds, creating for a moment a luminescent bridge from the dust to the heavens?
It also happens when I’m having a conversation with one of my children and it dawns on me just how clever and creative they are. The more questions I ask them when we are together, the more I notice their unique qualities and quirky mannerisms. In essence, when I don’t take my children for granted and choose to engage them with gratitude, it opens the door to a more rich and vibrant relationship.
Carey Nieuwhof says that we can combat cynicism through cultivating curiosity: to stop pretending like we know everything; to ask more questions and give fewer answers; to stop talking and listen. And, I would add, by keeping an eye on the sky and thanking God for each new sunrise, for every breath, and for every interaction with His creation.
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. - Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)
I am located in a state where we experience all four seasons in their full vigor—meaning hot days are hot and cold days are cold, and spring and fall are short but overwhelmingly beautiful. And if you’ve endured a long winter before, then you would agree that the first warm day of spring is almost like shock paddles to the heart. The warmth on your skin and the sunlight in your eyes tells you that something is wonderfully different today compared to yesterday. Just when you had begun to think that winter might be eternal, suddenly it is spring, and your heart has a choice: embrace the warmth or wait for it to get cold again.
Cynicism would keep us bogged down in a winter mindset; it might be warm today, but it’s only a matter of time before winter is back, so just brace for the cold. When we do this out of defiance of receiving God’s blessings today, we miss out on all that God wants to give us. There will be hardship in this life, for sure. As Solomon put it, there is “a time to cry and a time to laugh; a time to grieve and a time to dance.” Winter serves its purpose in the rhythm of the Earth, just as emotions serve their purpose in the rhythm of the human soul. We must grieve fully, and lament what we have lost. If we do not, our hearts will not be well.
But hope emerges when we keep our eyes open to the miracles God places all around us—a cooing baby at church... a friend who calls just to say hi... a cool breeze that comes up suddenly and sweeps your hair into the sky. The Spirit of God is fully alive in the everyday, every moment saturated with His love, wisdom, and care. You are held in the winter and you are adored in the summer. Experience each season with God and they will all serve their purpose in the fullness of time.
It’s natural to have a bad day, but if you feel like you’ve been struggling to find hope or meaning for days, weeks, or even months, it may be a sign of deep-rooted issues or frustrations. We believe strongly in Christian counseling and invite you to seek freedom through this resource. Please submit an application if you want to be matched with one of our trusted, vetted Christian counselors.Share Tweet
Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins. - Ecclesiastes 7:20 (NLT)
Solomon is incredibly practical in this short verse from Ecclesiastes. It echos again in Romans 3:23, “...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That’s why, at Southland, our unwritten rule is, “No perfect people allowed!” We know full well from experience, and God assures us in His word, that people will always struggle with sinful nature this side of Heaven. Because of our fallen nature and the separation from God that sin creates in our lives, we have to acknowledge that it’s only Jesus’ blood that cleanses us and makes us whole before God. Because if we are all sinners saved by grace, then none of us are righteous because of anything we’ve done (Ephesians 2:8). It is only by His grace, period.
I say all of this because we can get really down on people, including ourselves. People are disappointing by nature. We all struggle to reflect the image of God. So if a cynical person sees all of mankind as self-interested and untrustworthy, they could leave it right there and be halfway right. Except...
God did not abandon us when we disappointed Him. The things we do to one another are all the same things we do to God, and yet He does not lose hope or stop loving us. He doubled down on His commitment to mankind by sending Jesus as a beacon of hope, a new covenant of His love. God could have easily said, “Just look at the past! Is that not proof enough that this is a lost cause, that I should just leave men to their devices until they fall to ruin?” He emphatically said, “No! I will show you how much I love you so that you can never doubt my intentions toward you.”
And if God can love me that way, then I need to resolve to love others that way as well. God gives us the gift of His Spirit to navigate this tough terrain. We can’t expect people to meet our expectations, but we can expect God to work and move in our relationships when we operate out of a place of humility and hope.
Do you find certain people impossible to deal with? Our job isn’t to win arguments or change people’s minds. Our job is to reflect the image of God in the way that we respond to those with whom we disagree by showing love, patience, kindness, and self-control. Let that be the focus in all of your interactions today, and begin to put it into practice daily.Share Tweet
People say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. - Ecclesiastes 1:10 (NLT)
Have you ever read Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne? Well you should, because it’s positively delightful. Besides the wistful dialogue and silly plots, it is rich in character development and empathy. One character, of course, is Eeyore, the gray donkey who is as glum as they get. Anytime his friends say, “Good morning, Eeyore!” he retorts, “If it is a good morning, which I doubt.”
Honestly, Solomon sounds straight up like Eeyore in Ecclesiastes. He is d-o-n-e, done. You could say to him, “It’s a great day to be alive, Sol!” and he would reply, “Most fortunate of all are those who are not yet born, for they have not seen all the evil that is done under the sun!” (Ecclesiastes 4:3) Ooph.
And yet Eeyore, despite his gloomy disposition, always has his community of friends, and we often see his spirits lifted by their insatiable desire for adventure and celebration. Even Solomon acknowledged that life is better in community: “If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” (Ecclesiastes 4:10) Cynicism has a way of isolating us from others, so we need to be diligent about surrounding ourselves with Christian community. We need friends who will encourage us and remind us of the hope of the gospel when we just can’t see it for ourselves.
One of the best ways to keep cynicism at bay is to stay connected to other people. Isolation is a tool of the enemy, but human connection is God’s gift to us. It’s okay if you identify with Eeyore—just remember that he will always be part of the Hundred Acre Wood. And you will always have the body of Christ to support you and help you find hope. God, in His beauty and wisdom, created it to be this way.