Breaking Up With Cynicism

Dear Cynical Jesus-follower,

I love you. I have joined you in your eye-rolling at cheesy Christianity. We have bonded over similar hurts and disappointments at the hand of Christians. Hurt, not just inflicted by well-meaning believers, but actually done in the name of Jesus.

We’ve worn cynicism like a badge of honor. It’s like the “perfect attendance” ribbon you got from showing up every week to Sunday School, but this one is earned by disappointment.

People have let you down. That’s not the worst of it. Maybe you wouldn’t admit it, but I’m guessing Jesus let you down, too.

I get you because I am you.

Not long ago, I knew something was wrong. I was tired of being cynical. I was tired of feeling discouraged. My soul was dry. I was starting to stop feeling. So, I prayed. I asked God to help me feel again.

A few days later, the prayer forgotten, I sat in church surprised at the tears on my cheeks. I didn’t immediately, connect my prayer to my current emotional state. Our interim teaching pastor was taking us through the account of Lazarus. He paused at Mary’s response to seeing Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”

“What do you do when your Savior shows up late or says, “no”? My pastor stood there with quiet, compassionate confidence. There was a softness that defied the words he shared of recently losing loved ones. Beloved family members- gone. Jobs that are lost. Relationships that are severed.

That’s when my tears started flowing.  They wouldn’t stop.

What do you do when Jesus is late?

What do you do when your biggest disappointments are twisted up with your faith?

For too long, I’ve shut myself down. In the face of disappointment, I tried to protect myself. No more expectations. No more asking Jesus to come through for me. I defaulted to a fatalistic attitude that God would do what He wanted regardless. You can’t be disappointed if you don’t expect anything.

You too?

I’m at a crossroads and I think you might be as well. Do we want to be defined by cynicism that builds safe walls around us? Walls that keep us from fully stepping into our callings, our relationships, and our faith.

Paul E. Miller says this in comparing a cynical life to a prayerful life:

“A praying life is just the opposite. It engaged evil. It doesn’t take no for an answer. The psalmist was in God’s face, hoping, dreaming, asking. Prayer is feisty. Cynicism, on the other hand, merely critiques. It is passive, cocooning itself from the passions of the great cosmic battle we are engaged in. It is without hope.”

I’m ready to be engaged. I’m ready to hold out hope.

I wonder if part of the answer is to want Jesus more than we want any other thing.

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