You ever have one of those days (or years) when nothing seems to be going your way and everybody around you seems like an absolute idiot?
The older I get the easier it is to be a negative and disparaging skeptic. Sometimes I’m like the old fart who shuffles along in the grocery store complaining out loud to himself about people, prices, and politicians.
“This younger generation is going to hell in a hand basket.” (By the way, how does one go to hell in a hand basket?)
“The government is run by imbeciles who are out of touch with the needs of real people.”
“Church people are pathetic little trolls with nothing better to do then complain about everything.” (Note, in saying this, I have become what I hate.)
It seems fashionable to criticize just about everything and everyone. Some of the most popular radio and TV talks show hosts are famous for their ability to rip into the left or the right with their snarky commentary.
We have become a nation of people quick to throw stones at others for their failures while conveniently ignoring our own.
Many years ago, my pastor and mentor, Roy Hicks, Jr., was asked, “What do you consider to be your greatest success in ministry?” As a relatively young man, he had been an extremely successful pastor of a church of thousands. He was an author and a sought-after speaker. I expected him to point to something great God had used him for in ministry. I will never forget his immediate reply, “My greatest success is that I haven’t grown cynical.”
I was a young and idealistic pastor. Roy’s answer baffled me. What? After all your years in ministry, your greatest success is that you avoided becoming a cynic? It didn’t make any sense then, but now it does.
You see, life is hard. Things go left when we want them to go right. People let us down. Dreams are shattered. Plans sometimes fail. Friends betray us. What’s more, our own bodies let us down.
If we’re not careful, it’s easy to become pessimistic and grumpy. It’s easy to see the worst in people rather than believe the best. It’s too easy to give up and just wallow in our misery.
But maybe there’s a better way?
Perhaps we should decide to guard our hearts and ask God to help us stay tender despite the emotional beating we sometimes experience at the hand of others.
Perhaps we should do whatever it takes to find the best in our circumstances and in people.
Perhaps we should remember that we too are far from perfect and still in the process of becoming the man or woman God wants us to be.
Perhaps we should get off our high horse of spiritual or intellectual superiority and humble ourselves like a child.
I love that most children are full of hope and joy. In fact, I’ve never met a five-year-old cynic. Of course, the argument can be made that given time and life everyone becomes at least a little cynical. Eventually, every child becomes an adult and loses their “innocence” along with his or her unrealistic and positive outlook.
I vote for grace.
I want to grow in grace with age. I choose to see past the pain that could lead to cynicism and fix my eyes on the eternal. Rather than become a snarky old saint, I pray to become more like Jesus who, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).
Never forget, we become what we behold.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable
—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
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