This is the last post in a series about cynicism and the Christian life. In part 1, we saw how we adopt cynicism to protect ourselves from the helplessness we feel. In part 2 we saw why this strategy fails miserably. In this post, I want to look at how Jesus holds out a better hope to the hurting cynic.
Hyouka is insightful in identifying and expressing the pain of helplessness. But the show offers little in the way of a solution. For the most part, it is content that we understand that Hyouka exists and that it is all around us. It is enough that the quiet cries of the hurting, so long unheard, can be discovered for a moment by the four friends and us, the audience.
To its credit, Hyouka does give us a helpful insight that we can apply to the Christian life. It commends a caring curiosity to us. Oreki begins the show as a mystery solving machine, who takes in details and spits out solutions. But, through the influence of Chitanda, he begins solving mysteries to learn more about the stories of others. Oreki’s growth calls us to likewise examine the small details, not for the glory of being clever, but to see and sympathize with the pain that lies below the surface for so many.
But while that is an admirable reminder, it still cannot fill the gaping holes of helplessness all around us. The show’s best case scenario is that observant and caring individuals seek out the hurting. But, if we’re honest, how many people can do this in real life? How many are observant enough to notice the small clues of the pain we hide? And of those people, how many are caring to dig the full story out of us? My guess is you won’t find many of these compassionate geniuses. And if you’re waiting for one to come seek you out, you’re probably in for a disappointment.
Even if you do have such friends, it’s still not enough. Friends can be there for you for a span of time, but what happens in the hours, days, and years afterwards when the quiet pain is there and they have long since moved on? Or what happens when they fail you because they are wrestling with the same helplessness themselves?
The truth is that unless we have a Sherlock-esque eye and a large amount of time, we’ll miss most of the helplessness around us. And we should not be surprised when our friends and family fail to see ours in the busyness of their work, family, and personal issues.
What then is the Christian hope for helplessness? How does Jesus give us strength to reclaim our longing and fight back against cynicism? Here are three (of many) ways that Jesus offers us hope:
I. Jesus knows and loves us
In the first post we noted that Hyouka results from a desire to conceal and reveal. We are ashamed by our weakness; that we still struggle for such small reasons. And we are ashamed of our sin; that we are not always sympathetic victims, but often selfish and cruel. Yet, at the same time, we are miserable and desperately long for someone to share in our pain without laughing at or leaving us.
Jesus knows us. Oreki and his friends would have to sift through the tiniest of clues to fully understand the what and why of our turmoil. But Jesus sees straight into our hearts (Jn 2:24-25). He knows everything about us, down to the tiniest detail (Mt 10:30) . He knows what we long for and what we need, even before we ask (Mt 6:8). He knows our frame that we are but dust (Ps 103:14). He understands us even when we can’t find the words to cry out for help (Rom 8:26). And he will always be there because he has promised to never leave nor forsake us (Deut 31:6).
Jesus fulfills our longing to be known and loved like no one else can. In the words of Tim Keller, Jesus alone can “know us to the bottom and love us to the sky”. Our limitations and sin make us feel afraid to be known and unworthy to be loved. But Jesus has borne the cross for our sins and covered us with his righteousness, so that God invites us in as his beloved children. And Jesus will not cast us away for any fault in our appearance or defect in our personality. Our Savior is also our Creator. He formed us in the womb and in his eyes we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139).
And finally, Jesus is the true and proper object of our longing. He is better than cynicism’s stability, or Oreki’s genius, or Mayaka’s affection. He has fullness of joy. He is our source of life. He is the one whom we were made to walk with in relationship, and if we have him, we have all we need. The love of Jesus helps us finally put to death Satoshi’s self-hatred and resignation. Jesus knows us. He gives us the love we need. And he is the one we are made to love.
II. All thing come from the Father’s loving hand-
Cynicism rests on the assumption that we are alone in a cruel universe in which things just naturally go wrong. But the Bible tells us that our lives are in the hands of a loving Father who works all things – joy and pain – for our good. In a cruel universe, it is wise not to put too much hope in your longing. But in the Christian worldview, we can place our longing in God’s hands and pursue courageously after him.
He may prosper us in our careers. He may guide us to marriage and family. He may give us fruitful ministry and friendships. Or he might withhold all of the things we want most. He might make us wait for months, years, or forever. He may give us what we want and make it different than we thought it would be. He may give us what we want and then take it away.
Yet in everything, God is generous and wise. God always gives good gifts to his children. He will do things we don’t understand, but in our confusion he will teach us to trust him more. He will take us along paths we would have never taken to lead us to places where we need to go. It is scary to be vulnerable and entrust our longings to God. It is even scarier for those who have been hurt by others in the past. But God will never disappoint us. He will show forth his wisdom and care for us even in our disappointments.The sovereign goodness of God allows weak and insecure people like me to be brave.
III. God gives us a new community –
Lastly, God gives us a new community where we can know and love one another. A new community built not on hobbies or circumstances but on the blood of Christ. As Christians, we have been made part of God’s family – a family different than every other. Before, we were afraid to share our sin because it was too shameful and our helplessness because it was too small. But God’s family is full of people who are sinful and hurting just like us, but who have been known and loved by Jesus. And God is at work in his family, transforming our hearts and teaching us to love as we have been loved.
This creates the possibility for a powerful new kind of friendship. It will take hard work, patience, and time. We will be hurt and discouraged in the process. But if we are willing, we can build relationships where we are fully honest with one another. Relationships where we can share both monumental tragedies and the quiet and constant aches of daily life. Where we can share both our most shameful sins and our most persistent fears. Where we are not afraid to share the same struggle week after week, but where we can also receive gentle encouragement in the truth.
Through the Gospel, we can build relationships where we no longer need to conceal because we are all loved by the King. And relationships where we no longer need to compare because we have all been gifted to serve his people and a world in need.
In the end, the solution to our helplessness is not complicated. We need faith. We can live as cynics, maintain a stable sort of joy, and project a respectable Christian persona. But that would be a tragedy. Cynicism doesn’t work. It’s faithless.
But even as I write this, it’s still so hard for me to let down my guard and stand exposed before God and others. I feel so foolish and naive. I feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over again and somehow expecting a different result, when in reality I will only be punched in the gut again by a cruel and uncaring world.
And yet, I remember God has given us his Son. I remember his promise to never leave nor forsake us. I remember his past faithfulness. In light of his love and the strength of his promise, let us dare to live defiantly in the face of every obstacle and doubt and lie from the enemy that God is not good. Let us dare to be vulnerable to God and to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us dare to place our longings in His hands for him to bring to fruition or to frustrate in his sovereign wisdom.
Let us have faith to do these things, through every trial and disappointment, again and again, day after day, year after year, for a lifetime. And when our courage fails us and we fall short, let us dare to come with confidence again and again to the throne room of grace, where we will find help in our time of need.