I tend to get cynical easily. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m force-fed negativity with every news cycle. The economy still hasn’t really turned around. The Federal Government is incapable of moving forward. The Constitution is subverted by the political ideology of a very few. Racial tension has exploded into rioting unlike anything we’ve seen in the last 40+ years.
And those are just the top headlines.
Yep, it is easy to look around, see the obvious problems of the world, and decide that all is going to hell fast. Things might get better, but they will probably get worse. So I’m just going to sit here, cross my arms and shake my head in disgust. My heart gets hard, and I become cynical.
Cynicism vs. Thankfulness
Cynicism develops when negativity corrupts the heart. It is the result of poison in the soul. Cynicism destroys my ability to worship in spirit and in truth, and it stands in denial of the gospel.
Cynicism says that my negative circumstances define my heart, but thankfulness says the Holy Spirit defines my heart. Cynicism says there is no hope. Thankfulness says my hope is in The Lord. Cynicism reduces you to being a victim of circumstances. Thankfulness raises you above your circumstances, and says there is hope for tomorrow. Cynicism says “everything looks really bad.” Thankfulness says “I will walk by faith, not by sight.”
Defying Your Circumstances
The kind of thankfulness I want to live in is demonstrated over and over in Scripture. One of my favorite examples is that of Paul and Silas in Jerusalem. They had been preaching Jesus to anyone who would listen. Paul cast a demon out of a lady. They were doing exactly what God wanted them to do. So, the reader of this story should expect that God would bless them, giving them prosperity, success, popularity, and more, right? Instead, the people rioted against them. They were publicly stripped and “severely beaten” with wooden rods. After that, they were put in stocks in a dungeon. This would make anyone cynical.
But not these guys. That night, around midnight, after that long, horrible day, “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.” (Acts 16:25) They were thankful to God DESPITE their circumstances. They were in severe pain, humiliated, and had little hope of freedom, yet they looked their miserable circumstances in the eye and praised God anyway. They were thankful that even though they were suffering, God was doing something far far greater in their lives. That is defiant thankfulness.
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT
It isn’t natural for us to live thankful lives. It just isn’t in us. It is something that God builds into us over time, by taking us through His ongoing process of renewal.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
Romans 12:2 NLT
It involves taking our eyes off our our circumstances, and off of ourselves, placing them squarely on God, looking to him as our hope.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
So how can we shut down the poison, and cultivate thankfulness in our hearts and lives?
Turn off the news
It may be that you are mentally and spiritually ingesting all the wrong things into your life. Maybe it’s time to stop listening to the political commentators, and watching hours of the same negative news stories cycle over and over. I went on a TV news fast for 2 years, and it did wonders for my overall attitude and outlook. I choked off that poison, and it quit affecting me.
Get away from negative people
We all have one in our family. Heck, we’re probably sitting around the big dining room table with him or her today for dinner. Everything he says is negative, and there is never a good word. It is all about her opinion, and nobody ever measures up. You know how you feel around that person. You don’t have room for that in your life. You gotta spend the holiday with him, but you don’t have to ingest the poison.
Turn to God’s Word
Let God speak his love, grace, and truth into your life. His Word describes itself as “light” and “life.” It will feed your soul, not kill it off. It is through meditating on the Word that the Spirit begins to move in your life.
How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. I have tried hard to find you— don’t let me wander from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
I praise you, O Lord; teach me your decrees.
I have recited aloud all the regulations you have given us.
I have rejoiced in your laws as much as in riches.
I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways.
I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word.
Psalm 110:9-16 NLT
Start Thanking Him For His Blessings
You may not always feel like it, but He has blessed you beyond measure. Ephesians 1 says we are given “every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Thankfulness grows. AND it is contagious. Reflect with others on what God has done and is doing in your life.
It is this kind of thankfulness that will give you the ability to see beyond the suffering in this life, to rise above and to connect to God, and to trust in His plan for your future more and more. It gives you the ability to truly “walk by faith, and not by sight,” because it enables you to see HIM more clearly than you can see your immediate circumstances.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9