I have a confession to make: I am still a cynic. I know…after all these years. I have been for a long time, and maybe I always will be. In case you aren’t sure what that means, it is “a person who believes that people are motivated purely by self-interest rather than acting for honorable or unselfish reasons.” I find myself being more cynical about the Church than anything else.
I used to believe that my cynicism made me smarter and better than the average Christian, because I could see through all of the facades. I know when you’re faking it, poser! However, sometimes I get so caught up judging all the fake people next to me that I completely miss out on an opportunity to experience and connect with God…which is why I am beginning to realize that cynicism may not be so great after all.
Lately I have fallen into a huge rut. I feel like the odds are not in my favor. The world is out to get me, and maybe God is too. What do all of these people have to worship about, anyway? I know they are faking it. Why does everyone feel like they have to front like they have it together? UGUHGHGH.
During this time of brokenness and despair, I have seen how easy it is to look like I have it all together. I can go through the social motions and have a good time; I still go home and feel the pit in my stomach and soul that reminds me of the RUT I am in. Through some interesting circumstances, I’ve realized that other people do this, too. Maybe they are struggling with something quite different; the struggle still exists. We are all in pain, trying to understand where the healing comes from and when God will decide to sprinkle a little bit of that power on us. Maybe you have a secret eating disorder, porn addiction, sexual identity issues, alcohol problems, drug addictions. Maybe you are a victim of sexual abuse and it is clouding your mind and taking over your thoughts. Maybe you are a sexual abuser and you hate yourself for it. Maybe you’re socially awkward and can’t stand interacting with people. Maybe your mom just got diagnosed with cancer and you’re freaking pissed. I could go on. This is a broken, messed up world, right? Yikes.
We will forever be in this worldly struggle. We desire to make things right, or at least have someone make them right for us. So I go to church, sit in my seat, and stare at the people around me. My bitterness toward God for not fixing me grows and grows as I look at my peers praising Him. But, what if He hasn’t fixed them either? What if we are all still broken, together? What if the guy next to me was binging and purging right before he left for church this morning? What if the girl next to me is ashamed because she stayed up all night watching porn, again? What if the three college students behind me are all hungover and frustrated with themselves about it? I am beginning to have a different perspective on people. We are so normal in our brokenness. Your struggle is not weird. You’re not a freakazoid. Even though I feel completely bizarre sometimes with my specific struggles, I am not alone. What a thought! I am spending less time trying to convince myself that the person next to me is more screwed up than me; I find myself filled with compassion for them. I will never understand the depths of someone else’s soul, but I will always understand what it feels like to struggle and feel hopeless.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. [John 16:33]
The big idea with Christianity is that we will always have trouble. We will always struggle. We will be broken and messy and fallen until the day that we reach eternity. There’s an even bigger idea that Jesus Christ died for that messiness, and that He continues to plead on our behalf even now.
Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. [Romans 8:34]
Not only that, but Scripture tells me that God is continuing to work in me, whether I feel it right now or not:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. [Philippians 1:6]
One day, when I reach the end of this world and the beginning of eternity, I will be perfect. I will have no struggle, no fears, no doubts, no cynicism. I will no longer be broken. Wow.
Horatio Spafford is probably best known for the hymn that he wrote, “It is Well,” after discovering that his children had died in a tragic accident.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
In the wake of finding out that his children drowned at sea and that his wife was the only survivor, he penned this hymn. Discovering that your entire family has been destroyed is a pain I cannot imagine. Yet…It is well. There is obviously something much greater than earthly comfort present here. Spafford is seeking something supernatural. He recognizes the brokenness of this world and chooses to write about praising God for the perfection that awaits him in eternity. His brokenness and struggle was not hidden; I’m sure it didn’t take long for the news of this tragedy to spread.
Could Horatio be fronting right now? Absolutely. He could be completely faking it right now. Maybe he doesn’t believe this at all. Maybe he’s cursing God under his breath with each pen stroke. Much like my peers who may be faking it in the pews at church, Horatio Spafford could be laughing as he wrote this hymn. I don’t think that’s the important part.
Our hearts are fickle, silly, poisonous things. Our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). In the midst of a tragedy, our emotions might go haywire. I know that I would be questioning everything I’ve ever believed or worshipped if I were in Horatio’s position. But, the Truth is still True. I think Horatio knew that. He knew, that despite what happened, despite the fact that he just lost his family and he was distraught and broken, the Truth was still True. These are the moments when we need to be reminded of God’s eternal promises. We need to be reminded of God’s comfort, especially when we don’t believe it. He knew that (more than likely) God was not going to bring his children back from the dead. He would experience that pain and brokenness for the rest of his life. His children were gone. Yet, that doesn’t change the Truth that one day, his brokenness will be made whole, and he will experience perfection in the presence of God.
I don’t believe it. I AM A CYNIC. I need to stand up with these “posers” and scream Horatio Spafford’s lyrics as loud as I can, because it’s Truth. That part has so little to do with me. In fact, it has absolutely nothing to do with me.