Like many, I have frequently adopted the coping mechanism of cynicism. Cynics don’t want to see cynicism as a coping mechanism, but that’s what it is. We get burnt, we get hurt, people let us down, and we begin to view life a little differently. We no longer expect good things. We stop giving people the benefit of the doubt. We become critical, unpleasant, and turn inwards.
Pain and fear are powerful motivators, and I don’t want to minimize anyone’s negative experiences, but cynicism isn’t the way to go. It steals joy and can rob us of meaningful relationships. Cynicism fools us into a type of negative self-reliance and we begin to believe that it is us against the world. We start forgetting that there are people who love us and a God who cares for us. It can be difficult to see the good in people and situations, but it’s there.
Cynicism can also taint how we view things that haven’t even began to happen yet. This is part of why I’m trying to leave cynicism at the door in 2019. If we carry cynicism about the future with us into 2019, the New Year doesn’t really give us any opportunity for freshness or newness.
A cynical view of the New Year is very similar to Solomon’s explanation of life when God is not in the picture (i.e. “under the sun”): “All things are full of weariness… What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:8a, 9). However, thankfully God is in the picture. And what is He doing? He is “making all things new” (Rev. 21:5).
Cynicism tells us that the future will be stagnant, but God is dynamic. Herein lies the great cynicism-killer. With God, new starts don’t come once a year. They can come every second of every day. Any relationship, any destructive habit, any loss of trust—it can all be transformed by God. That’s what He does.
I used to be more cynical than I am. God is still working on me, but I’ve come a long way. One of the ways God helps us is through other people. One day, when I was particularly struggling with a cynical attitude, a close friend asked me, “can you imagine if Jesus was cynical like you?”
I started thinking about it. How miserable a reality that would be! Imagine Jesus, in His pre-incarnate heavenly glory, pondering staying put. Imagine if He, cynically expecting the poor reception He would receive and horrible death He would suffer, decided not to fulfill the plan of God. Jesus wasn’t cynical. Even though He knew the worst in everyone, He still trusted in the Father’s ability to transform everything from fair-weather disciples to the death of the cross.
Jesus knew the bad to come, but still rose above cynicism with trust in God. We are clueless regarding the future and expect it to be abysmal as we try to secure ourselves against any potential harm. Don’t be cynical, be faithful. Trust God and turn to Him for healing. Strive to see the best in others and give them the benefit of the doubt, expecting them to do the same for you. Depend on God for a bright future. One way or another, He’ll bring it to fruition.