How to Be Less Cynical and More Hopeful Starting Today - Finds.Life.Church

How to Be Less Cynical and More Hopeful Starting Today

by Sam Larrabee

It’s not always easy to feel hopeful about the future, even as a Christian. We know God cares about us and is making everything new, but it can be easy to lose hope when we see pain, despair, and brokenness daily. 

When I look at the news or scroll through social media, it’s easy to find the latest reason to feel cynical. Horrible events like violence and war get center stage, immediately followed by injustice, cruelty, and indifference. And, deep down, I know it’ll be the same tomorrow. 

But at the same time, I know Jesus. I know that He has a plan to make all things new. And I’ve seen it. I’ve seen how compassionate Jesus followers bring restoration, healing, and hope all over the world every day. And, deep down, I know that’ll be the same tomorrow, too. 

So, why do so many of us struggle with cynicism, even when we know Jesus? It could be constant exposure to negativity via our devices or personal experiences that drain our hope for the future. No matter your reason, this article is designed to help you start to let go of cynicism and maybe even feel a little more hopeful today. 

But before we start, let’s be clear. True hope doesn’t come from ignoring the pain of life. God doesn’t call us to be in denial or to sugarcoat the horror so many people experience every day by saying cliché lines like, “Just look on the bright side.” Instead, we overcome cynicism by finding resilient hope to strengthen us in any situation. 

What Is Cynicism?

Cynicism is a belief that people won’t change for the better, so things can only get worse. 

Cynicism expects the worst of people, plans, and institutions. So, a cynical person is quick to point out failures, flaws, and mistakes. 

Cynicism can develop over time or after a traumatic event or experience. We use cynicism as a shield. If we assume the worst of people, we won’t be surprised when horrible things happen in the future. 

Left unchecked, cynicism erodes trust and weakens relationships. Why? Because it’s hard to be close with people you expect to let you down.

What Does the Bible Say About Cynicism?

The Bible is certainly hopeful, which, in some ways, is surprising. After all, the Bible was written by people who consistently experienced pain. 

Time and again, the Jews were invaded, enslaved, and oppressed. Occasionally they gained freedom, but it was always temporary. So it would make sense for the Bible to be a cynical book, but it’s not. 

Instead, it seems like every time people had reason to lose hope, God reminded His people of His presence and His work to make all things new. When the enslaved Hebrew people began to lose hope that God would rescue them, God sent Moses. When Elijah believed his life was over, God sent him food in the wilderness. And after years of exile, God sent His people back home

The Bible doesn’t try to minimize or dismiss the pain we experience. Instead, it offers glimpses of how God interrupts brokenness with life, peace, and hope. And He’s doing the same thing today. 

How Does Jesus Respond to Cynicism? 

At the beginning of the Book of John, people start talking about a miracle worker from Nazareth named Jesus. 

A man named Philip meets Jesus and then tells his friend Nathanael all about Jesus. Here’s Nathanael’s response:

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. … John 1:45-46 NIV

We don’t know much about Nathanael’s life before meeting Jesus, so it would be unfair to call him a cynical person. But to me, his response to Philip’s words sounds cynical. Why? 

Because Philip shared good, hopeful news, and Nathanael immediately found a way to discredit Philip. How? By criticizing Jesus’ birthplace. 

Doesn’t that sound a little silly? To say that something can’t be true because nothing good comes from Nazareth. So maybe Nathanael is struggling with some cynicism, which would make sense, given that his people suffered for generations under different occupying empires. 

God promised to protect His people, but they still kept experiencing tragedy after tragedy. God also promised to send a Savior who would bring a new era of peace, and over the years, many individuals gained influence by claiming to be God’s promised Savior—but all were proven to be false. 

So now, Nathanael hears about another man, Jesus, who claims to be the Savior. In that moment, I imagine Nathanael might have thought something like, here we go again, another disappointment—and my buddy fell for it! Now, I need to help Philip see sense before he gets hurt.

Breaking Out of Cynicism

Philip responds to his friend’s seemingly cynical comment with a simple challenge: “Come and see Jesus for yourself.” 

Nathanael agrees and goes to meet Jesus. Here’s their conversation: 

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”  John 1:47-49 NIV

In just a few short verses, Nathanael went from skeptic to believer. How? By seeing proof of Jesus’ power. This short conversation changed Nathanael’s trajectory. 

So, what does this have to do with us? Well, Nathanael’s story shows us how to start letting go of cynicism. 

Noticing Glimpses of Good

Nathanael experienced something that confronted His skepticism head on. He was sure nothing good could come from Nazareth and that Jesus was a fraud. But then he met Jesus and everything changed. 

Growing up, I lived in a part of the country with very few Christians. I’d hear all the time about how our region was one of the most “unchurched” and least interested in Jesus. This made me feel cynical about the church’s future in that area. Practically, this looked like me making no effort to share my faith or talk about God. I’d tell myself, what’s the point? No one is interested in God, so why waste my time?

Then, a few months after graduating from high school, I scrolled through social media and saw that one of my friends had been baptized. I’d known this friend for years and knew she’d struggled through plenty of difficult circumstances, but we had never talked about faith. But then someone told her about Jesus, and she said yes to following Him. 

Her story broke my cynical attitude because it proved I was wrong. God can reach people anywhere at any time.

So How Do We Find Hope?

Maybe you feel cynical thoughts about the attitude of a relative or a coworker—believing they’ll never change. Or you might feel cynical about big issues like politics or violence. And maybe you’ve felt some of the negative effects of your cynicism, like catching yourself being more critical or feeling hopeless. If so, change is possible. 

But as I said at the beginning, true hope doesn’t come from ignoring the pain we see around us. People are hurting, systems are broken, and cycles of injustice have impacted people for generations. 

True hope doesn’t just say, “Look on the bright side!” Instead, it says, “God is in the process of making all things new, so people can heal, systems can change, and cycles of injustice can be broken. It may take time, but I trust God’s plan because I can see glimpses of how He’s working today.”

How to Start Letting Go of Cynicism

Adjusting your habits can certainly help address cynicism—you could curb your scrolling on social media, limit your time on news sites, and find accountability with a trusted friend or mentor. But I believe there’s an even simpler way to start letting go of cynicism: prayer

No, there isn’t a magic prayer to cure cynicism. Instead, the example prayer below is a starting point—a request for God to show you that there’s still reason to hope. This can look different for each of us, so lift up a simple prayer and keep your eyes open for how God might be trying to help you find hope again. 

You can use these words below or adapt them to be your own—whatever helps you get the conversation going with your heavenly Father who loves you no matter how cynical you may feel right now.

Dear God, please confront my cynicism. You say you’re making all things new, and I want to see it. Help me be aware of the good happening in the world and in my life. And help me to find hope again. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

It’s easy to believe the worst. After all, no one is perfect. But no one is all bad, and no one is beyond saving. People can change, workplaces can change, and you can change too. So my prayer for you is that God shows you glimpses of the good work He’s doing today, and as you see them, you begin to find lasting hope.

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