The Fine Line Between Reality and Cynicism

Have you ever noticed that life seems far too easy for some people?

Some days, I wait on people younger than me who are born on the right sight of the proverbial tracks, and pursued law or medicine or business while I was playing Frisbee with my friends. I see them in their sharp suits, ordering martinis and talking about stock quotes while I ponder over things like love and hate, joy and suffering, life and death. Sometimes it is hard not to compare my life to theirs. Have I made the wrong choices? Should I have taken some accounting classes and dropped those extra theology hours in college? Would I be at the table with them, blissfully unaware of what it means to struggle to pay bills, to go without, and to wonder if everything is going to click one of these days? The road of life seems like an autobahn to some and a gravel-road to others. And I wonder if I should look for an avenue to the good life.

If there is a fine line between facing reality and becoming a cynic, I think I tread that line more than I should. After all, in time, these life lessons must be learned one way or another. Nobody gets through life completely unscathed. If the past ten years or so have taught us anything, it is that even the richest and most successful amongst us must learn for their own mistakes. Bernie Madoff is serving somewhere between twenty life sentences and a million years for bilking honest people out of money for years. Even Lance Armstrong has recently given up his farce of immortality, unwilling to defend himself against the charges that he was using drugs to win seven Tours.

But for every fat-cat that gets caught, we are reminded that there are thousands upon thousands more who lie to our faces every day and collect paychecks that rival the economy of smaller nation-states. And, seriously, what will be their end? How can we say that there is justice in the world while Madoff spends his life in house arrest and Armstrong gains a couple of asterisks next to his name?

Like I said, the line between facing reality and becoming a cynic is sometimes a little bit foggy. But we swim in a stream of faith that is deep. Even if I am alone in my feelings, I am not alone. A really long time ago a guy named Asaph was having a hard time finding the same line I am looking for. He pointed out how hard it was to live out his faith.

All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.

He had been living the good life but not experiencing it. He was experiencing fear, pain, suffering, cancer, unemployment, engine failure, bill-collectors, and the repo-man. And as he looked out his window he saw them passing by, those fat-cats. Life was so easy for them. They were living it up. He was losing his hair for worry and they were the first hair transplant clients. Living a life of faith had gotten him nowhere. But in the midst of facing reality, Asaph checked himself. If I had said thus, I would have betrayed the generation of your children.

He wanted to have all the facts before he announced his arrival at despair. And there was one piece of information that he was missing, namely, God was among his people. He had not forgotten their struggle. It may have looked for all the world that the world was a competition for the fittest of the species, but that was only half the story. The other half of the story was told in church. I went into the sanctuary of God.

Asaph had a myopic view of the world. He could only see what his experience told him to be true. Life is unfair. Good people suffer. Bad people prosper. Faith is a game. Have you ever felt like that, even for a moment? Me too. But that is only half the story.

The only way we can honestly square up to reality without becoming cynics is to hear the whole story, again and again. The Lord will get justice in his own way. There is a coming death for evil and a real reward for the community of Christ. For me it is good to be near God.

And it is good to be near God because wherever we are found, whether in joy or pain, life or death, we are found by a God who has positioned himself as unmovable, unchanging, and once for all for us.

One response to “The Fine Line Between Reality and Cynicism”

  1. Awesome stuff, brother! Saw the same thing this morning in Psalm 77:10 (also by Asaph) — “Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.”

    So sweet that God can handle our honesty–and then satisfy us with a proper vision of himself as the one who is for us!

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