How do things get better?

I am a hopeful person. I believe the future will be better than the past.

I know, I know, historically speaking, sometimes things get worse before they got better. 

Even in recent memory — many would say that 2020 was worse than 2019.

But I believe things will get better. 

So how do things get better?

Often we hear a three step process: Define the problem, clarify the solution, and motivate people to go in the same direction.

I wonder… does this sound familiar? Stick with me, it gets better!

Most of all, we need better churches. So we need to focus on building stronger disciples. Which means raising up faithful pastors. So we need improved seminaries. And that pipeline really starts with excellent colleges. Logically, that means we need to invest in improving our high schools. Which we can only do if we raise godly children. And if you think about it, that requires healthier marriages. We can make marriages resilient by improving communication.

But this is hard because we need better media influences. Not just media — social media too. And we need more accurate news, something that’s less partisan but just as engaging. It would really help if companies could do better. Especially my co-workers! And if we had politicians who were problem solvers, who we can count on to keep their promises, who understand when to reach across the aisle. 

While we need to think globally, we act locally. So the best thing is to make our local communities better. Love our neighbors more. Still, we can’t just act locally. We need to deal with systemic issues too. And don’t forget the global poor and the refugee crisis.

This is complicated, so we need to publish and read better books. But not everyone reads books, so we need better YouTube videos, not to mention improving our engagement on TikTok. 

Do you feel exhausted? I do. 

In the cacophony of voices inviting us to join their cause – each godly, righteous causes! – I want to suggest that we need to meditate on one truth in particular until it shapes us at the level of who we are and how we live:

Things get better because of God. 

Imagine a brainstorming session on how to make God’s kingdom come…

  • If you were a Hebrew slave suffering under Egyptian rule
  • If you were an Israelite exile living in Babylon
  • If you were a first-century Jew oppressed by Roman rule

However you defined the problem or motivated people to work towards a solution, there was no hope of change until the Lord raised up Moses, or moved the heart of Cyrus, or Incarnated himself into human history.

In fact, what we see is that taking matters into your own hands doesn’t work. It is a recurring cause of God’s people going their own way — and missing God’s ways:

  • Moses killed an Egyptian and then hid his body in the sand (Exodus 2). 
  • The false prophets who said everything would be fine (Jeremiah 23:16-32)
  • Peter slicing off Malchus’s ear when Jesus was arrested (John 18:10-11)

All of these decisions must have seemed necessary and good, but they were false and wrong. They only intensified the problem that God was determined to solve. 

By contrast, consider how the Apostle Paul navigated overwhelming challenges in 2 Corinthians 1:8-12:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 

The burden was so great they felt they would die. 

They did not take matters into their own hands. 

They learned to rely on the God who has all the power — even the power to raise the dead. 

They set their hope completely in God. 

Their lives and ministry were characterized by simplicity and godly sincerity. 

Did Paul and his companions become passive? No, not at all. 

If anyone was an energetic problem solver and go-getter, it was Paul and those he commissioned. This is not a call to sit back and wait for God to do his thing. 

Rather, it is a caution to not move ahead until we’ve admitted our powerlessness and surrendered our hearts to the God who can raise the dead.

Then we will be ready to do his bidding, in his ways, with his strength.

And that’s how things get better.

Giving Credit:

The header photo is by Hoang Le on Unsplash.