We are bombarded with negative media and often feel tragedy overload. Every day we sift through hysteria online as every issue seems to demand an urgent solution. We wonder, “Is the world getting worse? Or is the media making me think it’s getting worse?” Our response is that we desperately want to do something to help the world, but we become overwhelmed by the magnitude of problems and the cultural division. No wonder the West is struggling with a greater sense of skepticism and disillusionment. We tend to judge the world based on circumstances—the economy, national security, crime rates, war. Perhaps a better barometer is at the heart level where values and ideas shape a society.
The Challenge Through History
Charles Dickens once wrote, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” Today we feel the tension of those words. There is so much good while so much pain exists around us. The truth is that every generation has its own set of challenges, victories, ugliness and beauty. History has proven that every generation has something that was progressively getting worse in society; and it was their moment to rise to the occasion. Stories abound of heroic deeds. Good can come out of bad things. Tragedy can bring the best out of people. Adversity can bring unity. Yet there are key ingredients needed to help unify people toward a solution. Herein lies the problem with where we are today.
Our Worst of Times
Today we have our own challenges that are serious matters to contend with but are opportunities for good nonetheless. Take a moment to look deeper, and you will see why many leaders are concerned. A disturbing cultural trend is the lack of a moral compass to determine right from wrong. Instead, our feelings and experience are the prime indicators of how we should live—which changes with a whim. Combine this with relativism and political correctness which make people wary of hardline moral convictions. People say we now live in a “post-truth society.” We could all vent our frustrations over mainstream culture: the entitlement attitudes or the division when we disagree that often assumes “I am right and you are wrong; or you hate me.”
Why does this matter? If we combine all these cultural trends together, along with the rising cynicism, then how can we as a generation rise to fix the issues of our time? It is not creating an environment that is essential to problem solving if we cannot speak truth to each other. Interestingly, the very fact that we are asking ourselves if the world is getting worse points to our instinctive knowledge that there is such a thing as morality and truth. Naturally, it is easy to point the finger at the rest of the world, and not look in the mirror at ourselves. Malcolm Muggeridge once said, “What is wrong with the world? Me.” I am right there with him.
Our Best of Times
Yet these are incredible times with so much good to celebrate. With resources and technology at our disposal, progress is being made in nearly every sector. Despite what mainstream culture wants us to believe, people are turning to Christianity all over the globe. God is at work in the world. Lives are being changed. In fact, in some of the darkest places His light is shining the brightest—in quiet places of the Middle East; in hidden churches of communist countries; in prisons across America. Real stories of lives being changed when they encounter the person of Jesus Christ are pouring in. These are exciting times.
It is the best of times because we have a God who is real, alive and actively present in the world. He is always working behind the scenes in ways we don’t expect. It is the best of times because God brings good out of pain and sorrow; making it into something beautiful. He reveals the futility of our own efforts. Humanism may have an allure for a time, but deep down it is exhausting to look to ourselves for answers and be good enough. People are turning to Christianity because at last they are finding answers to their longings for significance, wholeness, acceptance and love. The Christian faith offers truth not just as a concept but as a person in which all reality flows. And that is good news for this generation.
Our Hope No Matter What Happens
Is the world getting worse? The Christian response is that the world is already as worse as it could be because it is working from a state of brokenness. Our perspective of comparison is off because we cannot comprehend a perfect world as it was intended. Through the ages, the human heart remains the same—in need of a Savior. The amazing thing is that God looks at the whole span of time of the universe from beginning to end. He sees the good, the bad and the ugly of every generation. While He weeps with us at injustice, He also smiles with the hope of His plan of redemption breaking through even now.
Is the world getting worse? The worst has already been dealt with on the Cross. For it was there when all the world’s worst—every heinous atrocity, every injustice, all the pain, all the shame—was heaped on one person. The Christian’s response today must be vigilant in advancing good in the world because it matters for eternity, and the best is yet to come.