Nix the Cynical – Some Suggestions for Living a New Way

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By Bethany Riehl 

My father and I have a tradition that he began when I was young. Often on Saturday mornings he would take my sister and I out to breakfast to let our mom sleep in. The morning I was married to Mr. Riehl, my dad and grandpa took me to breakfast, bragging to anyone who would listen that it was my wedding day. For years my parents traveled for work, so we would grab breakfast any Saturday Dad happened to be in town. Now that they live here permanently, we have what I have affectionately dubbed, “Saturday with Dad.” 

Over the years he’s given me a range of advice from “What am I supposed to do with my life?!” to “Okay, for real, how do I get this kid to sleep?” He’s helped me to plot out every book I’ve written, helped me self-publish two of them, and was my sounding board for the Noah series recently published in this honey of a magazine. 

He is the wisest man I know (my husband of course is a close second; my father wins due to age and experience), because he’s the godliest man I know. He takes the Word of God literally and applies it appropriately. So, if you need advice or guidance or encouragement, he’s a pretty safe place to go. 

Recently, as you might imagine, our talks center on the world around us. We talk about how to love in a world like this, so full of wickedness and despair. A few months ago, my dad chuckled about some crazy thing I was worked up about and he said, “You know what? We all need to go back to growing our own food. Then we’ll all be so busy and tired at the end of the day that we’ll fall asleep before we have time to get angry about anything.” 

Well, maybe we can’t all grow our own food, but he is definitely on to something. What if we played a game with our kids or a handful of friends instead of turning on the news in the evening? What if we invited our neighbors over for dinner instead of being angry that their old beat-up car is still sitting in the road in front of their house? What if we prayed for our enemies? 

What if we got busy instead of cynical? 

I’ve been thinking lately about the way that my dad simply lives the way God says. He does all things as unto the Lord and lives a peaceful life as a result. Not an easy life, mind you. He’s in his 70s and still works a full-time job. My mother is battling a long-term illness and that takes a toll on both of them. He is at peace, if not at rest. 

How can we all live like that? With the world’s wickedness swirling all around us, it can seem impossible to keep from being cynical. But not only is it possible, if we claim to be followers of Jesus, it’s what is expected of us. We’re called to be salt and light, full of joy and thankfulness. Ambassadors of Jesus Christ in a dark, lost world. But how can we if we’re tangled up in it? How can we fix our eyes on Jesus instead? 

These six “tips” have made a big difference in my life this year; I hope they’re helpful to you as well. 

  1. Saturday with Dad.Find yourself an elder (either in age or the faith) to glean wisdom from. Listen – really listen – to their advice. Laugh with them, cry with them, dine with them. Pick up the tab.
  2. If the news is really dragging you down, read some good books– missionary biographies are a current favorite of mine. It might seem counterintuitive while trying to acquire peace toread stories of people who lived through perilous times, but it truly does amazing things for your faith to read about how the Lord has carried His people through. 
  3. Go to church.“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day approaching”(Hebrews 10:23-25). This passage is difficult to obey when we aren’t regularly gathering with a local church body. I know the couch is comfortable and it’s nice to be able to just listen online, but if you’re still home – or if you were home long before the lockdowns last year – you’re not only in disobedience, you’re missing out. And so is your church. 

The Lord knows what we need and has given us all commands for our good and His glory. Often, obedience comes before understanding. Of course there are some instances where you can’t get to the building. If that’s the case, invite friends and neighbors to watch the sermon and worship with you and be in contact with your pastor. The church is a body, yes, but the toe can’t add to or benefit from the rest of the body if it’s staying home week after week. If you’re afraid of being lonely or overlooked, be the one to reach out to someone sitting alone. 

  1. Grow something.It really does do something for our soul when we get our hands dirty and nurture the growth of a plant. Watching a dead seed flourish to life is healing in the best way. Don’t have a green thumb? Grow a good habit instead. Take up daily walks or call a loved one once a week. Write a letter, send a card. Plant the seeds of God’s Word in your heart and work to memorize big portions of Scripture. Copy a page from your Bible and carry it with you wherever you go and grow your memory bank. Make every effort to“…not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2). 
  2. Read the book of Revelation.No, really. Did you know this is the only book in the Bible that promises a blessing to those who read it (Revelation 1:3)? Many think this is a terrifying passage and because it’s difficult to understand, it’s easy to ignore. But it’s part of the canon of Scripture and it matters. Just as Jesus literally fulfilled each prophecy made about His first coming, so too will He literally fulfill every prophecy made about His second coming. If you’re a Christian, you have nothing to fear about the fulfillment of end times prophecies. Knowing the Lord has gone before us and has a plan (whether it be fulfilled in our lifetime or later) isincredibly assuring. Chuck Missler has a fantastic series on the book of Revelation on YouTube if you want to dig deeper. 
  3. Abide in the Vine.We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13) and we can do nothing apart from Him(John 15:5). It’s right and good to seek ways to be more Christ-like and to have a plan to that effect. Yet we cannot do it apart from Him. We need His guidance and His strength to endure good and bad times. I recently read this from the late Christian author and speaker, Elisabeth Elliot: “It is only in obeying God that we may know Him.” I’m sure we could come up with dozens of ways to endure hardships, but if we’re not doing them by Him, for Him, and through Him, it’s meaningless wood, hay and stubble that will be swallowed up by flame (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). 

Praying for you, friends. That you may know peace and assurance. That you fix your eyes on Him, and that when the Lord returns we will all be found faithfully serving Him and the people that He loves so dearly. 

 

Bethany Riehl loves to write stories and articles that explore the complexities of relationships and encourage readers in their relationship with Jesus. She joyfully serves in the children’s ministry at her church, teaches at a homeschool co-op, and drinks more coffee than necessary to keep up with her only-slightly-crazy life. She is the author of four Christian fiction novels and now lives in Meridian with her spunky kids and very handsome hubby. 

 

 

 

  

 

 

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