Rest and Burnout Series, parts 7 & 8 (re-post) Suffering, Restoration, and Rest & Moving In The Opposite Spirit of Cynicism

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(These are parts 7 & 8 of a series I did on rest and burnout in 2012.)

Part 7

Suffering, Restoration, and Rest

I will restore (repay) to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.
-Joel 2:25 (ESV)

It is hard to rest when we focus on our losses, disappointments, and unfulfilled dreams; but we must.

What about all this lost time?  Why do we have to wait for our promises?  Not to have what we have dreamed about and been promised is a loss and we keep losing time in the time between the times.

But God is the great restorer.  The whole Bible is a story of restoration.  God is all about restoration.

While you wait, God is upgrading you in many areas; stretching you and maturing you: enlarging your heart.  God walks beside you in your losses, when you are betrayed, passed over, and hurt.  You are growing in faith, hope, and love.  You are learning deeper and deeper forgiveness and grace.  You must choose God a thousand times over bitterness.

The person called to healing ministry that prays for a thousand people without success or the person called to write or preach messages that writes or preaches a thousand times with little fruit; what is the difference inside of them after the one thousand compared to how they would be if they had immediate success?  The "one thousand step" people experience a lot of pain through the one thousand, a lot of death to self.  Finally, they are doing it (there could be a hundred other examples), for One.  They are doing it from and to love.  They are praying for the sick out of the Father's heart for the sick or writing and preaching out of God's love.

So, you might think that there's something wrong when your gift does not work or is not called upon; but God is implementing a larger, deeper, longer plan for you.

You will also notice people along your journey who seem to have had it easy.  They got married easily, had children easily, found a great job, or are living in prosperity, got healed, have succeeded in ministry; and the list goes on and on.  Two things: You don't know their suffering- God's unique plan for their lives which also involves their personal brokenness and you are called (like Peter in John 21:22) to follow him and not compare yourself to other people.  Jesus had to tell Peter that it's none of his business what he does with the other person.  You have to find your way as a unique child of God.  God has a perfect plan for you that very well may involve delays.

When God shows us his plans for us (Jer. 29:11), it is a destination that requires a journey and it is a finished thing that requires building, starting with a foundation and that all takes time.

"I will restore the years"

“It will strike you at once that the locusts did not eat the years: the locusts ate the fruits of the years’ labor, the harvests of the fields; so that the meaning of the restoration of the years must be the restoration of those fruits and of those harvests which the locusts consumed. You cannot have back your time; but there is a strange and wonderful way in which God can give back to you the wasted blessings, the unripened fruits of years over which you mourned. The fruits of wasted years may yet be yours.” (Charles Spurgeon)

In your in-between-time, you feel like you are dying.  Your patience is stretched and broken.  You are not resting well.  You are getting burned out, standing still.  You cry, "what's happening to me?"  Job went through a terrible time of suffering.  He lost everything except his wife, some friends, and God.  Job is a long, 42 chapter book in the Old Testament.  Job tries to figure out why.  Job's friends try to figure out why.  Job gets some bad advice from his friends and his wife.  Job never gets the answer to the why question.

In his loss and perplexity (suffering), Job cries out:

"Though He slay me, yet I will trust him."
-Job 13:15

This is what Oswald Chambers has to say about this statement:

  • God frequently has to knock the bottom out of your experience as His saint to get you in direct contact with Himself.
  • God wants you to understand that it is a life of faith, not a life of emotional enjoyment of His blessings.
  • The beginning of your life of faith was very narrow and intense, centered around a small amount of experience that had as much emotion as faith in it, and it was full of light and sweetness.
  • Then God withdrew His conscious blessings to teach you to “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7) And you are worth much more to Him now than you were in your days of conscious delight with your thrilling testimony.
  • Faith by its very nature must be tested and tried and the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character must be proven as trustworthy in our own minds.
  • Faith being worked out into reality must experience times of unbroken isolation.
  • Never confuse the trial of faith with the ordinary discipline of life, because a great deal of what we call the trial of faith is the inevitable result of being alive.
  • Faith, as the Bible teaches it, is faith in God coming against everything that contradicts Him— a faith that says, “I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do.”
  • The highest and the greatest expression of faith in the whole Bible is— “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
-Oswald Chambers, My Utmost, June 20

"When it was beyond hope, he had faith in the hope (Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping-) that he would become the father of many nations, in keeping with the promise God spoke to him: That’s how many descendants you will have."
-Romans 4:18

Abraham was in the midst of a 25 year wait for his promise. In our instant culture, waiting this long seems unimaginable, but big things and big times sometime require big waits. A man named Jason wrote this: the ages of 75 and 65, long after their bodies were as good as dead, and they had settled in their hearts that they would never have kids, God shows up, tells Abraham to leave his father's household and head somewhere in "that" direction, and promised him the one thing Abraham and Sarah had been praying about for years: Abraham would be the father of many nations.
But the odds were stacked against them.
They had tried for decades to have a child, and were never able to conceive. They were leaving their home, the only place where they found support and encouragement and knew that people were praying for them. They were going to make a long journey to only God knew where, and they knew that Sarah was well beyond child-birthing years. The circumstances weren't looking too good.
But Abraham still believed.
In a place with no hope, in a situation where logic and science told them that God's promise would never come about, in circumstances that shouted that God didn't want to give Abraham and Sarah a son... Abraham dared to hope...
And received the promise of Isaac 25 years later.
Maybe, that promise you've been holding onto isn't dead just yet. Maybe that marriage you're believing for, that child you're praying for or that job you're looking for is going to happen. Maybe the deepest desires of your heart really will be yours.
Maybe, just maybe, the waiting is an opportunity to hope.
And so, my brothers and sisters, as you journey through your promise, waiting for God to bring about what He said He would, may you remember to hope. May you keep your eyes on Him rather than the circumstances. And may you, as you dare to hope that God will keep His promise to you, see that promise come to pass...
Even if it is 25 years in the making.
Daring to hope...Jason

Near the end of Abraham and Sarah's wait, they both laughed when God told each of them that the baby will be here in about a year.  I believe their laughs were a bit cynical or out of incredulity.  Then God said, "as a matter of fact, you are to name the child Isaac".  Isaac means "he laughs".  God will turn their incredulous laughter to joyous laughter.

If you have ever received a promise that you waited a long time for, you know that having the promise makes the wait worth it.  God really does restore those years that the locust figuratively ate in your life.  We can rest in peace as we wait with God, who has upgrade upon upgrade for us in our spiritual growth, preparing us to be the person he sees us as in the future.

Part 8

Rest Series: Moving In The Opposite Spirit of Cynicism

In this post, I want to share the idea that we can move in the opposite spirit that our flesh wants to take us.  We get to do something in our spiritual growth.  We get to walk by the Spirit and add more into our spiritual lives, like someone adding weights at the gym or increasing the distance or altitude of their walk, run, or hike.  And all of the good fruit that we're seeking to move in doesn't come from our efforts, but from Christ.  He paid for the exchange.  Following him means we get the exchange, the "in place of" or "instead of".

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,[a] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."  Galatians 5:16-24 (ESV) [a. Some manuscripts add murder.]

"By his divine power the Lord has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of the one who called us by his own honor and glory. Through his honor and glory he has given us his precious and wonderful promises, that you may share the divine nature and escape from the world’s immorality that sinful craving produces.
   This is why you must make every effort to add moral excellence to your faith; and to moral excellence, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, endurance; and to endurance, godliness; and to godliness, affection for others; and to affection for others, love. If all these are yours and they are growing in you, they’ll keep you from becoming inactive and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever lacks these things is shortsighted and blind, forgetting that they were cleansed from their past sins.
   Therefore, brothers and sisters, be eager to confirm your call and election. Do this and you will never ever be lost. In this way you will receive a rich welcome into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ."  2 Peter 1:3-11 (CEB)

The Lord has given us everything we need.  We have to procure it, desire it, take hold of it, get activated in it, and develop it.  From the beginning, men and women have had to do something towards God and towards their own spiritual growth.  It has always been a partnership and a covenant where both sides do something.  This is in no way to be confused with you earning your spiritual place or saving yourself.  It is always with God and towards God, even when you are "in the dark" and have no sense of God.

What will I give my attention to, gaze at, look for, or move in and towards?  What we give our attention to is what we become.  You could call this the beholding - becoming principle.  If you constantly focus on not doing bad things, then you may become a person of good law; like a good police person or judge; and then as a Christian, your witness becomes that.  If you are just a love person, saying "all you need is love", without mentioning our savior; then as a Christian, you convey a cross-less Christianity where we can all just say we're sorry and hold hands in a circle.

It is about love and it is about doing good, but we can only love because God loves and we can only do good through God because of Christ.  The person who has become cynical is constantly focused on the wrong thing: they have a warped lens.   We can intentionally change the lens and start living differently, feeding our souls on the opposite of the hurtful, heart sick, and bitter ways of cynicism.

Earlier, I wrote about how the ugly by-product of burnout is cynicism.  Burnout is the result of lack of rest.  Burnout may also be the result of continual disappointment that has not been put to rest.  Loses need to be grieved.  Grief is a gift from God.

If you have a disappointment and you don't make appointments to meet with God, you start to believe that disappointment is the rule or way of life and you feed off it.  As the saying goes, "you are what you eat".  Burnout needs rest and a plugging back into God for renewal and refreshment.  Burnout not turned to God goes into cynicism.  What if your disappointment is all the time: "my life is a disappointment"?  Then you need to get a new life.  You can not see the kingdom of God unless you are born again.  Maybe you need new birth in some areas?

The believer's walk with God results in the fruit of God.  We have to do something: Walk by the Spirit and partake of Jesus in communion with him.  Do you commune with Jesus?  We become like the people we spend time with. 

The Christian life is not getting in a wheel barrow and having Jesus or other brothers and sisters carry us.  Actually Jesus paid for the road he wants us to walk on and other brothers and sisters are meant to help us along the way.  Along the journey, we get to hear each others story and share our dreams and encourage one another as we walk by the Spirit and partake of Christ in community.

We have to move in the ways of God, rather than just standing against the ways of hell or the works, ways, thoughts, ideas, and arguments of the flesh.  Some Christians are known for what they don't do or for what they are against, but Jesus said his followers would be known by their love.  What are you for?  What do you vote "yes" to, with your feet, and with your words and thoughts and deeds?  Those that love, naturally don't do destructive things.  Those that love God love as God loves.  They love their neighbor and love themselves.  How are you doing with love?

Some people are so afraid of legalism or earning their place in God through works, that they are phobic or allergic to doing.  The phrase, "just do it", when applied to the Christian life even scares them.  To that person, I say this:  What I am writing about starts in your thoughts, in your being.  It is all about looking at your savior who did it all.  It has all already been done for you. I believe in the church of the walking wounded. We don't wait till we are ready to go or to fight or to work.  We don't pretend we are not wounded or broken, but we know that God uses wounded and broken people.

When we have a negative in our lives, like cynicism; we need to move in the opposite spirit.

Please look at Isaiah 61, especially verse 3:

"The Lord God’s spirit is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me
to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim release for captives,
and liberation for prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and a day of vindication for our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for Zion’s mourners,
to give them a crown in place of ashes,
oil of joy in place of mourning,
a mantle of praise in place of discouragement.
They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,
planted by the Lord to glorify himself.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins;
they will restore formerly deserted places;
they will renew ruined cities,
places deserted in generations past."

Isaiah 61:1-4 (CEB)

I learned about moving in the opposite spirit from wonderful Graham Cooke:  God wants to give us the opposite of the negative.  He has an instead of or in place of for us.  Instead of cynicism, God wants to give us a trusting, optimistic spirit.  Do you know who the most optimistic and positive person is?  This person is also the most intelligent person in the world and loves Jesus more than anything.  You might have guessed.  The Holy Spirit.  He wants to fill our lives.  He's not a bit discouraged, cynical, or disillusioned.

All the facets and manifestations of cynicism have been getting free reign in the lives of some people.  God wants to replace these negatives with godly positives.  Each of the positives are our new map.  As we travel in God in them and toward God in them, we grow in God in them, deeper.

Cynical definitions and opposites:

In place of: Negativity
  • Positivity
In place of: Distrust
  • Trust
In place of: Disdain: {To regard or treat with haughty contempt; despise.  To consider or reject as beneath oneself.  A feeling or show of contempt and aloofness; scorn.  From Old French desdeign, from desdeigner to reject as unworthy. Disregard, despise, hate, indifference, and arrogance.}
  • Admiration, love, favor, praise, respect, honor, esteem, adore, cherish, accept, toleration, veneration, appreciation.
In place of: Skepticism:
  • Optimism, trust, faith
In place of: Sarcasm
  • Kindness, praise, accolade, commendation, or compliment
In place of: Misanthropic (distrustful, suspicious)
  • Trusting, unsuspicious, cheerful, optimistic,  idealist, romantic, and sentimental.
In place of: Sardonic (disdainfully or skeptically humorous : derisively mocking)
  • Gentle, playful, amusing, gracious, affable, diplomatic, and hospitable.

Moving in the opposite spirit from cynicism is described below: 

  • Positivity: being a positive person.

  • Trust: trusting, willing to trust, willing to give a chance, to give permission.

  • Admiration
    • love 
    • favor 
    • praise 
    • respect 
    • honor 
    • esteem 
    • love
    • adore
    • cherish
    • accept
    • toleration
    • veneration 
    • appreciation

  • Optimism
    • faith

  • Kindness 
    • praise 
    • accolades
    • commendations 
    • complimentary

  • Unsuspicious 
    • cheerful 
    • idealistic 
    • romantic
    • sentimental

  • Gentle 
    • playful
    • amusing
    • gracious
    • affable 
    • diplomatic
    • hospitable

These are ways that are the opposite of cynical.  These are a list of the ways that are not natural for the person who has been cynical as a defense.  To come out of cynicism it is not enough to just stop it, but doing the opposite dis-empowers it and the enemy's power in the sinful, fleshly realm.

There are 7 points and 30 sub-points.  These are just my notes, my sketch of what the opposite of cynicism is to me.  A work in progress.  I might have left dimensions out that apply to your experience.  You can do the same thing: writing down the negative and then the opposite.  They are not affirmations, but positive thrusts at the negative ways that cynicism manifests in the person who is burned out.

When you move in the opposite of the ways of the sinful nature or in destructive ways, you are moving in harmony with God's ways: loving, gracious, faithful, hopeful, wise, or merciful; for example, and God gains ground and the enemy loses ground in you life.  When this process happens, you are growing towards becoming the person God sees you as in the future.  You can make a prayer list of these positive opposites.  When we are heart sick in burnout, we are not inspired to pray.  These exercises can help you pray.