By Contributing Writer, Jeannette Paulson
In the fall of 2010, R W Glenn, a faithful pastor, took a sabbatical after working eighty-hour weeks for 10 years. Slowing down allowed him to see a problem he had not seen before:
More and more I was becoming convinced that there was a black cloud of inevitability looming over my head, that I would commit a ministry-ending sin, that it was my destiny, that it was inevitable.
He shared these feelings with two other pastors at his church and discovered that though he believed that God in Christ loved his congregation, he was not convinced that God loved him.
Do you have such a black cloud looming over your head? Are you weary and despairing, sure that your diligent sowing will end in disaster?
You may be a cynic.
In A Praying Life Paul Miller defines cynicism as doubting “the active goodness of God on our behalf.” Cynicism makes me less than confident that God acts for those who wait for him. Cynicism makes me wonder whether, when I ask my Papa for bread, he won’t give me a stone. Cynicism makes me doubt that goodness and mercy will follow ME all of the days of my life.
American culture has had a can-do spirit coming from the Judeo-Christian confidence in the goodness of God who hears and answers prayer. But in the nineteenth century we shifted our confidence in God to a confidence in the goodness of man. Remember Julie Andrews singing that she had confidence in confidence alone? But, says Miller ”Optimism rooted in the goodness of people collapses when it confronts the dark side of life.”
When we put our confidence in our parenting skills, our curriculum, our husbands, our children, our hard work—anything other than God—we are setting ourselves up for failure. Every day brings intractable problems that exhaust and befuddle us. The door is open for cynicism and despair. We lose hope. And how shall we live without hope?
The cure for cynicism is a child-like trust and thankful dependence on God. We are utterly dependent on Him for every breath and heartbeat, for patience, wisdom, hope, faith, perseverance, repentance, and forgiveness. Miller points out that David humbly turned from the cynicism of his brother Eliab before going to select five smooth stones.
Describing a praying life, Miller says:
It engages evil. It doesn’t take no for an answer. The psalmist was in God’s face, hoping, dreaming, asking. Prayer is feisty.
What about our darkest days?
David said, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” James Smith in his book The Love of Christ says:
No more, believer, repine at thy trials, nor be over-anxious for their removal; they are appointed by Jesus as thy purifier and are choice blessings in disguise. Seek their sanctification, wrestle with God that you may see his love in every stroke, and look to Jesus that you may enjoy his presence when passing through the flame.”
RW Glenn, through his wrestlings, came to see that as a Christian, God has no reservations about him whatsoever. God is for him, waiting for feisty prayers and ready to act.
Are you a cynic? Repent and believe.