I can feel it creeping up on me. I’ve been around veterans and military so much the past three years that I’m gaining situational awareness in more than just my physical surroundings; it’s making its way to my heart. Of course, that’s not a new thing, is it? King David wrote in Psalm 139, verses 23-24, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Wow, is it frightening to pray those words! I know God sees the cynicism I try to hide. Don’t you see it? The symptoms (cues) are obvious:
- I hesitate just a moment or two when someone asks, “What is Tracks4Vets?”
- The tone and timber of my voice drops when I talk about how many lives this program will change; the “h” is pronounced heavily when I say, “hope and healing,” indicating irony rather than belief.
- My smile is forced, and my eyes distant when I share my “passion” to help wounded veterans.
- My right eyebrow cocks and my lips tighten in suspicion when I hear about yet another veteran program.
- While my pulse quickens, my ears pull back and my jaw tightens revealing stress and doubt rather than excitement about touching the lives of our nation’s heroes.
Diagnosis: Imminent death of a dream.
Contributing factors: Knowledge, and experience.
David’s son, Solomon, the wisest, most knowledgeable man of his time, wrote Ecclesiates 1:18 when he was king of Jerusalem. “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” Not the kind of thing you want to read when you’re praying for wisdom; not the motivation you need to keep going. I’ve read this verse several times before and acknowledged that the more you know- especially when you really care- the more it hurts. The vulnerability is what I signed up for when I began working for the wounded and became a voice for veterans. So, why this despair when I read these words, and why do cock my eyebrow and shake my head less than a year into our Tracks4Vets mission?
Cynicism: Effective assassin of hope.
Why am I so cynical? Funny you should ask. Same reasons you are:
- The news reports another scam or reveals deception and greed at the heart of another Veteran nonprofit
- Not all programs help, and not all veterans are heroes; some even wear entitlement like a badge of honor
- Veteran organizations are unwilling to cooperate because it competes with their income
- Leaders who tack “veteran” onto their his/her own agenda and people who say they “support veterans” but don’t act on it
- The VA
The more I know about this world of “philanthropy,” the more disgusted I become with the idea of being a part of it. Oh! And I neglected to list the most contributing factor to my sarcasm and suspicion:
- My own dwindling dedication and lack of focus; I don’t work hard enough, manage my time well, or follow up on connections I’ve made
What can be done when I’ve allowed cynicism to kidnap my calling and hijack my hope? Whoa. Did you catch the problem with the question at the beginning of this line? My calling; my hope… this was beginning to sound like a self-help blog. The answer lies in the hands of the God from whom I’ve tried to hide. He reminds me:
- He alone provides “hope and healing;” Tracks4Vets is the Lord’s plan no matter what we name it! (Proverbs 16:9)
- Jesus “came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10). I am an ambassador, not a savior, and I’m called to share the hope I have (1 Peter 3:15)
- No matter how “worthy” a program, recipient, or cause is, only God is worthy of the glory (Revelation 4:11)
- Everything I do is for Him (Colossians 3:17) and He will rally the right people; the willing people-to His purpose (Romans 8:28)
- The difference between answering the call and completing the mission is not giving up (Hebrews 10:23-24)
The only way to combat cynicism is with Christ’s compassion. Compassion is not apathetic; it demands action. It isn’t conditional and is rarely deserved. Compassion is intentional effort on behalf of another. In Matthew 9:36, when Jesus had compassion on the people, He was filled with the longing to heal them and acted immediately in accordance with the will of His Father. He didn’t tally up all the people He’d already healed that day (week, year, lifetime), or study if this person would be a better citizen or contribute more to society when he/she was healed. He didn’t rail on the leaders or declare how society had failed the needy (not this time, anyway!). Jesus didn’t survey the crowd to determine how deserving this demographic was or how many supporters He’d win. He didn’t even require that they become His followers! He just loved them. He just loves us.
Tracks4Vets, or any organization, will only make a difference when I continue to give with all my heart; when I have God’s loving compassion that overcomes indifference or skepticism and is generous with the time, attention, and resources He has given me.
Will you join me in combating cynicism with Christ’s compassion? What spurs compassion in your heart and how can you put that into practice?