The One Thing That Keeps Us Tenderhearted When the World Feels Harsh
This marks week four of diving into Jennie Allen’s book Get Out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts. So far, we’ve learned a lot!
We’ve learned that we can choose and one of the first places to start is by holding space for silence. It’s hard to identify unhealthy thought patterns if we never slow down enough to be open and vulnerable with God.
We’ve learned how important it is to be known for who we really are. Community is key.
Last week we learned that we’re not meant to live our lives in fear, worry or anxiety. God is good. God is sovereign. These two facts form the scaffold of courageous living.
This week we get to unpack what Jennie Allen called “the transforming power of awe.” She says, “Delight in God and His goodness tears down our walls and allows hope, trust, and worship to flood in.”
Cynicism is the direct opposite of this. The cynic is always waiting for the rug to get pulled out from under them.
Cynics may call themselves realists, and sometimes that may be true. But the nature of a cynic is that they don’t trust that the best possible outcome will happen.
This kind of distrust can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we are cynical, if we aren’t careful, we can create the life we fear exists. A world in which people can’t be trusted. A world in which more energy is spent bracing for negative outcomes than is spent celebrating current blessings.
It is likely that each of us has experienced cynicism in our lives. We may have been on the receiving end of it, or we may have exemplified it.
I’ve never really thought of myself as a cynic and yet as I read this chapter, I realized cynicism has in fact stuck a toe in the door crack of my mind.
Last week I shared that I struggle with worry. I realized that some of my worry stems from not expecting best possible outcomes. Apparently, worry and cynicism can be bedfellows.
How about you?
Allen shared a great list of questions to help us identify whether cynicism is trying to get into our heads.
- Do we get annoyed when people are optimistic?
- When someone is nice do we wonder what they want?
- Do we often feel misunderstood?
- When things are going well are we waiting for the bottom to fall out?
- Do we quickly notice other people’s flaws?
- Do we worry about being taken advantage of?
- Are we guarded when we meet someone new?
- Do we wonder why others can’t seem to get it together?
- Are we often sarcastic?
If we identified any areas in which we may be struggling with cynicism than three cheers for the discovery. We are not condemned to a life of cynicism. Being aware of cynicism in our lives and believing we have a choice is a powerful antidote. But the greatest kryptonite to being cynical doesn’t require wrestling with our thoughts but rather resting in one thought.
God is good and He is in control.
Last week I shared one of my all-time favorite quotes from Chip Ingram:
“God is going to bring the best results by the best means for the most people for the longest time.”
I have rehearsed that quote in my head countless times. Not because I always felt like it was true but because I needed what I believed in my head to also be true for my heart. The repetition helped redirect the feelings of fear, doubt and cynicism that could (and can still) enter my heart.
God IS good. He IS in control. And we can rest our weary, sometimes cynical hearts in that truth.
There are various ways that we can focus on God’s goodness.
How about examples of ways that God has personally been good to us? If we’re not sure where to start I’ve heard of a great way to prime the pump of gratitude. Ask ourselves “If I woke up tomorrow and lacked anything that I never gave thanks for today, what would that make me grateful for right now?”
We can also focus on how good and amazing our God is by looking to creation. The wonders of the stars and planets, the myriad of beings in the animal kingdom, the beauty of earth––sky, water, canyons, forests.
And then there’s you and me. Have you ever paused to wonder at the wonder of how God made us? The intricacies of our anatomy?
- Every second our bodies produce 25 million more cells.
- We have 60 to 100,000 miles of blood vessels in our body.
- Pound for pound our bones are stronger than steel.
God’s glory is manifest in ALL of His creation… including us!
It’s important to never confuse worship of the Creator with worship of what He’s created…we know that. We just want to celebrate…to rest in the beauty of all that our good God has made.
Jennie Allen put it this way, “Beauty interrupts us, it awakens us it undoes us, it cuts us open and restarts our hearts. Beauty is God’s evidence of something far more wonderful coming, a world beyond the one we can imagine, even in the most spectacular moments here. A God better than we hoped for. A God who blows our minds.”
Allen continues to connect the dots between the goodness of God, beauty, and the demise of cynicism. She says this, “Cynicism puts our minds on things of this earth, and we lose hope. Beauty points our gaze toward the heavens and reminds us of hope. Cynicism crumbles in the presence of beauty.”
Allen concludes her chapter with a profound observation. She says that there is only one reason you and I have the ability to choose and it’s because Jesus chose us.
“Jesus came for us–– for you and me, with our arms crossed. Bitter, cranky, unsure, doubting, cynical, negative, us.”
“…He busted down the door and rescued us in His beauty and kindness. He suited up and came for us. And that is why we aren’t cynical, expecting the worst. Because we have been promised a forever better than we can imagine.”
Delighting in God, engaging in worship, being intentional to sit like Mary at the feet of Jesus is a gift we give to ourselves.
The irony is the fact that the greatest outcome of this gift is the realization that it’s not about us.
This truth is where we find freedom… comfort… relief… joy.
It’s like being a kid again. All the things that time and a harsh world have made us jaded toward
––we no longer have to be cynical about.
Our Daddy loves us. He’s got this. And He’s got something even better for us in the days to come.