My struggle with cynicism

Others have nicer names for it, names such as “compassion fatigue” or “burn out” or “emotional exhaustion.”

I suppose all of those terms are accurate, but in myself I see it as plain, unvarnished cynicism.

Sometimes the needs of the world close in on me until I cannot breathe, then I crash under the weight.

I don’t usually write or talk about it, except for a very few people who are close to me, because I know what I say won’t be helpful when I feel like the whole world is stupid and I’m one of the only sane ones left.

True, parents feeding their toddler kerosene is stupid. Getting high on drugs while your two-year old is circling the yard is stupid. So is arguing on Facebook about America being so Christian that we don’t need the Holy Spirit. Pastors refusing communion to Christians just because they aren’t dressed quite right makes me want to knock my head against the wall. Infant baptism, taking the choice away from children to choose Jesus for themselves, feels wrong to me. Churches thinking that hiding sexual abuse protects their reputation are among the stupidest of all. The world is full of paradoxes.

And I feel helpless in the face of it all, as if nothing I do makes a difference. I write and write about the Holy Spirit, and people still don’t believe Him. My voice is lost in space, too frail to be noticed and heard.

It makes me feel listless and hopeless and cynical.

Tonight while we were eating supper, I laid down my forkful of green beans and asked Will, “Did Jesus ever get tired of stupid?”

“Sure He did!” Will said. “It says so in the Bible!”

And yes, it does.

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?”

Matthew 17:14-17a (ESV) emphasis mine

I’m seeing that cynicism is an expression of pain. Cynicism may not be a healthy response to pain, but nonetheless, the wounding is legitimate. And wounds take time and space to heal.

But I noticed in this passage that after Jesus expressed His exasperation, He didn’t sit in cynicism. He went ahead and did the next right thing. He didn’t stop with the hard feeling.

“Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.

Matthew 17:17b-18 (ESV)

While struggling with cynicism, I will try to give my pain to Jesus, take a deep breath, and follow His example by doing the next right thing.


Do you struggle with cynicism? What helps you overcome it? Sometimes taking time away from people to work in my garden or go on a long walk helps me regain perspective. 

19 thoughts on “My struggle with cynicism

    1. Mary Yoder

      I can so totally relate to this .
      One thing that helped me is to have a list of what I am responsible for and what is somethings only God can do .
      I can pray and encourage and try to live godly but only the Lord can change the stupid things we see daily .
      There is never emergency sessions going on in Heaven . God is always aware and will work His plan .
      And I
      feel that my job is the care for the people closest to me in my circle of responsibility and then reach out to others as I can .
      Only the Lord can save the world !
      Mary Yoder

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      1. Karen

        Psalm 37 helps me so much with discouragement about the things I read about and see. I love verses 12 and 13: The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him, for he sees his day is coming. Proverbs 16:4 also helps me: The Lord has made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” Sometimes I quote this: “Look without and be distressed, look within and be depressed, look to Him and be at rest.” I’m not sure who said that, maybe Corrie Ten Boom? I enjoy your blog very much, especially your testimony, and your post on the filling of the Holy Spirit. How we need Him and His power, love, and wisdom!

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  1. I hear you. I get so, so weary of it all! How do you live well in the midst? I don’t feel like I know. I think mostly I need to remember that I am called to listen to His voice and to be salt and light, not to change people. That’s harder to live than one might think….

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  2. Oh, Rosina, if you only knew how I struggle with this. I think those of us in the helping professions get a double dose of stupid. I often have to pray on my way to an ER call to respond to these people with love. I don’t have any answers for you. Sometimes the degree of stupid requires us to speak up to these people but I ask the Holy Spirit to take over then! By myself I don’t have the grace to respond with love. Jesus is my only answer then.

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    1. Thank you for understanding! 💓 Sometimes I feel compassionate–other times, just so weary. Your words are so validating. And meeting you in Wal-Mart made my day last week! 😍

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  3. A while ago, I was in a counseling class, and we had to fill out a survey about ourselves –what we rated ourselves on in terms of integrity, compassion, etc. The lowest rating I gave myself was in hope. My first thought was, “That’s a bad area to be low in as a teacher. My very job is to hope.”

    Thanks for giving me permission to struggle with cynicism (and on a day I happened to be really struggling). Perhaps it does make sense that I would struggle with hope when I see so much pain in students’ home lives.

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    1. This world does make hope hard sometimes. That’s why we have to hope for what is yet unseen, the reality of a Kingdom so grand and glorious that someday everything will be set right.

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  4. Elisabeth

    To me, the stupidest thing of all is the way Christians in this country devour one another over the stupidest little points of doctrine, splitting and splitting churches until the very body of Christ seems to be scattered into a million gruesome pieces. And there is no love, why does no one realize that THAT is more important than even (ahem!) modesty and worship styles? I’ve been comforted by reading the gospels – this is the thing that exasperated Jesus most of all – people who swallow camels and spit out gnats, who tithe mint and do not give. We can only do what He did – do the next right thing. Thank you for this!

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    1. Yes, that wearies me too. We even deny Communion to others who aren’t dressed quite right or aren’t members of a specific, approved church. I have a feeling we are going to have a bunch of surprised Christians in Heaven, and maybe there we will finally be able to worship without fighting. But oh how lovely if we could do that here!

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