There has been a cooling trend around here the past 36 hours, and we are not complaining. Although as we watch the residents of New Orleans dig out from Ida, we shouldn’t complain at all about whatever weather we get as our houses and community continue on with water, electricity and walls/roofs.
Our prayers and hearts wrap around that area as well as so many areas here in the U.S. and around the world.
If you attend First Christian Church here town, you hopefully heard Pastor Brian’s introductory sermon for the Prayer Series of teachings. It was a very good one and accessible through the church website under sermons. Here —> https://www.firstdecatur.org/messages/unstuck/
One of the things he said near the end resonated with me. He said something to the effect that we have a kind of spiritual pandemic in our day and age named “cynicism.” I am not sure I got this paraphrase accurate, but that was the gist of it and I certainly have been infected with it over the course of my journey.
I can’t speak for the culture or other people, but I can tell you how it happens with me.
Let’s start with what the word means so we can anchor in on the problem:
A cynic is someone who believes that self-interest is the motive of all human conduct, a habitual scoffer. Bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous or pessimistic.
While I certainly can agree with Pastor Brian that this is an epidemic in our media, social interactions and even entertainment; I cannot address it in anyone but my own self.
When I have been convicted of a cynical spirit rising up in me, invariably I can trace it back to an injury incurred by rubbing against some of my fellow sojourners and feeling real or perceived rejection, disappointment, or out right prickly friction between us.
As I begin to get cloudy vision from bitterness, it distorts my view. Everyone has it better than me, everyone is out for number one, no one cares about me or the things that matter to me ….
And from there, it is just a short slippery slope until my narrow vision starts to drag God into the equation. Since I know He is good and kind and since He seems to be bestowing all kinds of goodness and kindness on my antagonists then He must be short-changing me and the ugly result of all of this is a spiraling downward cycle of self-pity, sarcasm, bitterness and cynicism.
Look back at the definition of a cynic and let’s compare it to God’s word.
God has told us to think more highly of others than ourselves, so thinking 100% of all my fellow humans are selfishly motivated is not lining up with truth. If I am programming myself to deal with everyone in light of this skewed thinking, I will become a very sad and unhappy person who doesn’t care a wit about someone else’s struggles.
God has plenty to say about scoffers or mockers, but the one that comes to mind first is we are not to sit down with them and join in. (Psalm 1:1)
I notice so quickly the tone of the mocker in much of our modern day humor. Some of it is quite funny at first blush, depending on which side of the issue you stand. But if a talk show host or meme scoffs or mocks at your own side…watch out. But God says we are not to sit in the same audience with those who scoff and mock anything.
It is not a holy response as Christians to make jokes and mock the people we disagree with. Scoffing and mocking harden our hearts and make us forget that God wills that NONE should perish.
Hardening of the heart is fatal to our spiritual life. We must be on guard against it.
I confess I have had seasons when I realized how bitter and pessimistic my attitude had become and how much it was infecting my conversations and relationships.
I thank God for the conviction of the Holy Spirit that reminds me this is not what I want to be and I thank God for the help He gives me to repent and receive forgiveness and then turn around and head toward trusting Him and doing life with others who, just like me, are works in progress.
As I go through this process of conviction, confession, repentance, forgiveness and restoration: I have found every single time that God meets me more than half way and the returning to fellowship with Him each time makes the periods I do stray less and less frequent.
I am an older dog…I am learning that the quicker I recognize the ugly signs of bitterness, mocking, sarcasm (which is one of my innate humor tactics…sigh) or knee-jerk skepticism…I go quickly now to God.
I don’’t want to end up pulling up a chair with scoffers and getting comfortable.
Prayer is one of the ways we can protect ourselves from this disease. And not just praying against things don’t like all the time, but praying by opening up our own hearts before God and asking Him to show us what needs to be cleansed out of us so we can love Him and others more.