Practical ways to defeat your inner cynic

Sometimes people struggle with the Bible and Christianity because it’s so real. How can Christianity be founded on hope when so much of the story is violent, oppressive, and bleak? I mean, have you ever read the Bible? It contains plenty of tragedy, trauma, and treachery. You might think that flipping through biblical stories would make you more cynical, not less cynical.

When one of my boys was little, his favorite Bible story featured Samson and Delilah. I started to get nervous when he asked me to read it night after night. After all, the story has almost no redeeming qualities. God gives a man a gift of strength, and the man falls madly in love, stupidly squanders his gift, and gives the secret away . . . lying through his teeth all the while. Then he goes out with a bang, killing thousands of people and himself in one spectacular feat of brute strength as he demolishes a temple. And nobody lived happily ever after. Amen.

For years, it bothered me that Scripture has so many violent accounts. In some instances, it still bothers me. But it also made me realize something far more profound than I would normally see through my sanitized, twenty-first-century, middle class, Western mind-set: God understands our world. He understands how brutal we often are and how awful human nature can be. God sees how violent we can be toward one another and toward ourselves. He sees our cruelty. Without God’s intervention in the narrative of the human story, life would be nasty, brutish, and short.

Instead of letting our inhumanity be the final word, God entered the mess in human form through Jesus and conquered hate with love. We threw the worst of humanity directly at Jesus: hatred, abuse, ridicule, rejection, and death. And God turned it into life. And not just life for himself but also life for us, for humanity, for the very people who killed his Son.

The cynics thought they were winning on the last Thursday of Jesus’s life. They were certain they had the final word on Friday. They were in control. Despair had won. Even the disciples thought so. They went home, back to fishing. But nobody saw Sunday coming. Nobody saw hope rising. No one saw love breaking out from the ashes of hate. Nobody saw Jesus coming back.

The remarkable part of Christianity is not that we have a Savior who came to deliver us but that we have a Savior who sees us for who we really are and loves us anyway. Jesus stared hate in the face and met it with love. He confronted despair and made it abundantly clear it wouldn’t win.

The thrust of the gospel is that Jesus sees your hate and meets it with love. He sees your despair and counters it with hope. He sees your doubt and lobs belief back at you again and again. Cynicism melts under the relentless hope of the gospel.

Your past isn’t your future. Not if you get Jesus involved.

Bitterness can’t linger under the relentless assault of love.

Hope cannot die if an empty tomb empowers it.

Of all people on earth, Christians should be the least cynical. After all, the gospel gives us the greatest reasons to hope. We don’t just cling to an intellectual claim or proposition. Our hope isn’t based on an emotion or a feeling. It lives in a person who beat death itself and who loves us deeply enough to literally go through hell to rescue us. So what were you discouraged about again?

Because hope is anchored in resurrection, it is resilient. It can outlast a dozen or a hundred frustrating jobs. It can outmaneuver ten thousand broken hearts. If you want to kick cynicism in the teeth, trust again. Hope again. Believe again. That’s the hope found in Jesus Christ. And that, in the end, is what defeats cynicism.

Excerpted from “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the Seven Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Copyright © 2018 by Carey Nieuwhof. Published by WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church. He’s the author of “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences” (WaterBrook, Sept. 4, 2018). The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers.