If you’re anything like me, you probably have struggled to hold onto joy at one point or another. Life’s circumstances can hit hard, leaving behind the rubble of your once intact faith. If we’re not careful, we can start to believe that God and His blessings are too good to be true. Right then, the worst cynic makes way onto the platform of your heart. And you’re left with feelings of doubt and mistrust for anyone and anything that comes your way. So, how can we take back the ground that cynicism has claimed as its own? Here are 3 joy-filled truths to combat cynicism.
1. False joy is not joy.
They say, “Fake it until you make it,” but I just can’t seem to find that anywhere in Scripture. The truth is life gets tough. Even Jesus, the perfect Son of God, said that we would face trials. But, what matters most is how we respond when we encounter a challenging circumstance. Do we respond with cynicism, assuming the worst result of every situation, or do we respond with joy? And, I’m not talking about the appearance of happiness (throw out all “I’m fines” here). I’m talking about the persistent, enduring Paul-in-a-dungeon type of contentment which leads to breakthrough.
We read in Acts 16 that Paul and Silas were beaten and arrested after healing a woman in Jesus’ name. So, how did the two disciples react to this injustice? They responded with worship. In the middle of their praise break, the shackles that bound their hands and feet fell off. The chains that held the other prisoners were broken, too. Even the jailer, who was scared and ready to take his own life, responded by giving his life to the Lord. He then went and told his whole family about Jesus, and they were saved that very evening. They all rejoiced together because of the enduring joy of two disciples, who responded with candid worship instead of cynical worry.
Here’s the cool thing: we can’t produce this type of liberating joy on our own. We must trust the Holy Spirit, who is at work in all disciples, to be exactly who He says that He is. He is our comfort, our hope, our deliverer, and our peace. He is the Spirit of the living God, who is actively working in and through us to draw us (and those around us) closer to Himself. In Him is where true, lasting joy is found. And anything short of Him is an underwhelming attempt to be the real thing.
2. Gratitude crushes all the lies.
Gratitude is receiving the goodness of God. We truly can believe that He is good and that He is for us. When we honestly accept every aspect of His goodness, we have no other option but to thank Him for who He is and what He’s done. However, we must spend time listening to His voice if we long to have gratitude through every changing season. If we fail to listen to Him alone, we’ll settle for any lie that’s thrown at us during unprecedented times.
That’s what happened to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. They abandoned gratitude and became the first people on earth to experience cynicism. Instead of trusting their Creator, they listened to a lie and began to question God’s character and motives. In a moment of discontentment, they acted upon their doubt and ultimately brought a curse upon the world. Pain, suffering, and separation ruled. But God, in His pure goodness, sent His Son to crush the head of unbelief and restore joy to our innermost being. So, no matter how much pain we walk through, we can be thankful in all things—trusting that He who began a good work in us will see it through to completion.
Whether or not you can presently see it, gratitude is producing a life of joy for you. That precious fruit is growing through every trial and hardship you face. The hard stuff doesn’t take away from the good stuff—it leads straight to it. Christ’s death bloomed forth joy, salvation, and victory over every work of evil. And like Jesus, we too can walk in joy by the means of gratitude. Take some time to whisper a little “thank you.” Right now, denounce cynicism and believe that God’s hand is at work in the middle of every situation. You’ll begin to overcome negativity, reveal a heart of gratitude, and show the world who God really is.
3. People really are a necessity.
No matter how many times we’ve been hurt—by our family, our friends, the church, and more—we still need one another. God created us with this innate need for community, and we cannot run away from one another. The children of God are designed to dwell in unity. And we can welcome even more people into the family of God. Throughout Scripture, we see that even prodigals find their way back home. So, a great way to overcome cynicism is to connect with a group of people who love Jesus and seek to know Him more. It doesn’t matter what it looks like. If it’s at a worship service, through an online small group, or gathered with friends at a local coffee shop, you can connect with the people around you, grow in discipleship, and find freedom from cynicism—together.
Once you have connected to a community, you then have the opportunity to reach out to others and invite them along. You can welcome them with open arms, help them to grow in their faith, and share in the good work that Jesus has already prepared. You can serve them where they are and love them as they are. When we make friends of the gospel, we have the chance to make disciples who multiply more disciples. And in doing so, we show genuine love for one another.
Jesus said in John 15, “I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my command: love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” Instead of keeping your inner cynic alive, fully lay down your life for your neighbor. And when you do, you might just find the joy you’ve been looking for.