I don’t know about any of you, but I have been feeling particularly overwhelmed by everything going on in the world lately. Sin has ravished our way of life and infected society in irreparable ways. It’s 2016 and even within our own country, a quote on quote ideal place to live, rampant racism plagues our country. (And yes, contrary to our endemic white ideologies and privilege, black lives do matter. It’s not that black lives matter and others don’t; it’s just that our african-american brothers and sisters are hurting right now and our nation, our churches, and our people are not standing up to tell them that we care for them and that we love them.) Thousands of children grow up in single parent homes with few people to support them, love them, and care for them. On our college campuses, 23 percent of women endure sexual assault (Rainn Statistics) and countless more are heckled and objectified every single day underscoring their worth and self-dignity. Drug violence and addiction are ripping whole communities apart. We have two major party candidates that have proven to be power mongering compulsive liars that will do anything to achieve political power. Outside our borders, one of the worst refugee crisis’ in history is tearing the middle east apart while simultaneously ruining the lives of thousands upon thousands of refugee families. According to the Do Something Movement, there are over 20 million women enslaved around the world for the sole purpose of “satisfying” depraved and disgusting men’s sexual desires. Civil Wars throughout central Africa are dividing families and senselessly murdering thousands of innocent people. The list goes on and on and on. One element remains constant as we look at these lists…sin. We live in a world that has been marred by the far reaching consequences of sin. So what is our response?
I’d be lying if I said I was always super optimistic about the direction our society is heading. I’d also be lying if I said I was always filled with hope and full trust in God’s sovereignty during difficult times. Life is incredibly challenging, and it’s not always easy to have full faith in what God is doing here in this fallen world. During these times, I have often found myself looking to passages like Romans 8:20-24a which states: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Sin is ugly, our world is broken, and my heart hurts; so, I find peace in the truth that God knows we are broken and that he will come to redeem to us and reconcile our brokenness to himself. I “groan inwardly” as I wait for God to make all things new and restore all of this suffering. Though it is not a bad thing to be excited and expectant for Christ’s coming, I have often found in my own life that my heart is not in the right place as I eagerly await his return. Am I excited for Christ’s return because I truly want him to make all things new, or am I simply catering to my own sense discomfort with everything that is happening in the world. My feelings and emotions of being overwhelmed at a broken society and a broken people have clouded my trust in God’s timing and deliverance. It is not easy to have faith when living in a fractured world, but God doesn’t call us to have faith only in times of peace. He calls us to faith in all circumstances. Even the apostle Paul struggled with the emotional distress of the effects of sin our world. He writes, “Yet which I choose I cannot tell (discussing life and death). I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” – Philippians 1:22-23. But he doesn’t stop there. Rather than sitting around and moping about how bad life can be or how emotionally distressing and challenging it is to live in a world of such hurt, he continues on by writing, “But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus” – Phil. 1:24-26. This has been a difficult truth for me to swallow. Maybe I’m the only struggling with it, but it’s reasonable to assume there are others out there that also wish all of the suffering, the pain, and the distress of this world would be restored and made new. But we must not enslave ourselves to this logic. Yes, we eagerly await the day when God makes all things new, but in the meantime, we must use every waking moment to “remain and continue with you all” so we can be faithful message-bearers of the Good News that our world will one day no longer be broken because Christ has defeated death and made a way for all things to be new. Friends, if you struggle with these same thoughts, I would encourage you to never forget the truth of the Gospel. Be compelled by the love of Christ and stand firm in the faith and sovereignty of God, even when it’s difficult… Nay, especially when it’s difficult. We cannot be perfect in these sinful vessels we call bodies, but we can strive each and every day to “finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the Grace of God” – Acts 20:24 while altogether knowing that God has given us his Spirit to help us in our times of weakness and lack of faith. Rest in this truth and glory in God until he sees fit to make all things new on his sovereign timing.