Messiness

Watching and/or reading news, following social media posts, and just being out observing what is happening around us, I think it fair to conclude the world is a mess. It seems, like the Book of Judges observes about the nation of Israel, everyone does as they see fit. A police officer in Minneapolis saw fit to kneel on the neck of a handcuffed black man, killing him as a result. In protest against this injustice and others, people saw fit in that city and in Louisville to destroy buildings (and businesses) owned by innocent people. Over the weekend, when advised by government officials and medical experts to socially distance and wear masks, many saw fit to gather as they normally would on a holiday weekend, crowded together and without masks. 

The economy is a mess and it doesn’t look to get better soon. The powers that be in Washington have been dysfunctional for years and have long struggled to work together for the benefit of the citizens of the nation. Healthcare is ridiculously expensive and bankrupts many. The rich get richer while the poor and middleclass struggle more and more to get by. As it turns out, some of the most essential workers (grocery store employees, EMT’s, truckers, childcare workers, nursing home staff, teachers, to name a few) are some of the lowest paid workers in our nation. It is easy to understand why the mental health of so many is at risk. In the past several months, I have learned of the deaths of mothers, brothers, sisters, and children. I have also learned of others who are dealing with life-threatening illnesses. And then add the travails of so many in the world, and it is easy to relate to the thoughts of the prophet Habakkuk, who wrote: 

How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. (Habakkuk 1:2-4)

Yet, the fact that the prophet nearly three millennia ago experienced similar emotions as we do, should make us realize that our hope cannot be in humankind to solve its own problems. That has been tried over and over and is repeatedly found wanting. The reality is we can’t fix the problems of the world. We can’t by our own efforts and devices clean up the mess. It’s beyond us and it always has been. Only God can do that, as Habakkuk later realized.

All of our societal problems and much of the worldly problems boil down to a matter of the heart. We can’t change our own hearts and neither can we change those of others, no matter how badly we would like to. Our protests and social media outrage won’t do it, or it would have happened by now. We might be able to help repair some of our most egregious problems through protests and legislation, but we can never correct the root of the problem, which, like a weed, has to be removed to keep it from returning. And any casual observer can see that the problems we face today are similar to those of previous generations down through history—wars, poverty, and injustice.

However, as Habakkuk realized, there is one hope for our messiness to be cleaned up. The Lord Almighty is his name! So my hope in these messy times is in him. It’s beyond me to solve the issues of our day. I would rather use my energy to seek him than to expend my energy in worry and anger. If he wants me to do something, he will lead me to do it. But the far greater need is heart transformation because our collective hearts are a mess, and only he can do that. 

If we want to see the world changed, perhaps the better way to do it is to devote ourselves to pray for God’s intervention. He may indeed use us, but first things first.

© Jim Musser 2020 All Scripture references are from the New International Version 2011

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