We live in a broken world.
I've heard this sentiment as long as I can remember, most often in reference to today's society. The news is atwitter with stories involving celebrity drug scandals, violent crimes, and war. We see homeless populations or unemployment rates on the rise, food prices that increase while farmer's earnings decrease, and good guys suffering while the bad guys go free. The world is fraught with brokenness and evil as far as the eye can see.
But the "broken world" is more than today's society. If you buy into the Biblical creation story, you believe as I do that the world was created fully good, fully in connection with its creator God. And if you believe as I do, this world fell apart from the ultimate Good piece by piece, leaving God to His own devices and us embracing our own human desires.
It's hard to escape it! Everywhere you look, you can find yet another example of brokenness. Society seems to have lost all respect for its fellow man. People care about nothing but themselves. The world is just a big pile of selfish mess.
But is this the real world, or is it merely the view through a tinted lense?
Many times when I've watched a news report about a tragedy, I watch the emphatic interviewee make emotive statements with grand gestures about the situation, and I wonder: while the tragedy is real, does this person represent the way everyone feels? Is this dramatic speaker a true representative of the community, or do they simply put on the face the nightly news wants to see? In short, is the community as broken as they have been portrayed?
Occasionally I'll see a different kind of story, whether through an independent video or a mass publication, about happiness. I always dig in. The taglines all present the same tease: what is the secret to happiness? Each claims to have the answer, and not surprisingly, the answers aren't all that different from each other.
Without fail, the answer has nothing to do with circumstances. It isn't about your job, where you live, how big your family is, what hobbies you keep, how clean your house is, or how much money is in the bank. It's never about how you look or how people perceive you. The answer, inevitably, comes from within.
Studies show that approximately 90% of happiness is completely independent of external factors.
Others report that the best predictor of happiness with your current circumstances is how much gratitude you show for past or present circumstances.
Happiness, it turns out, is most influenced by you, not your circumstances.
So, I wonder, as I watch the dramatic reactions to major events: are these people in control of their happiness, or do they feel driven by their circumstances? Do they have an ingrained habit of perceiving the bad in any situation instead of seeking out the good? More to the point, if they didn't experience a flood/earthquake/layoff/shooting today, would they have felt just as badly about their day-to-day lives?
I also wonder about this person's neighbor. The one whose interview wasn't played on the nightly news. The one who always greets the neighbors with a "good morning!" and constantly carries a smile on his face. Did the news network interview him? Was his interview rejected because he refused to take the bait in an all-too-negative industry? Imagine what his interview would have looked like.
I think this neighbor got something right. I grew up hearing that Christians are "in the world, but not of the world," and I think too many Christians focus on the 2nd part. They see the world, with all the tragedy and brokenness that comes with it, and they reject it. We are not of the world.
But I believe this brick wall distinction falls short. As much as people may want to become close to good and far from evil, we have to remember that the world is not inherently bad. If you believe as I do, this world was created by the God of love. It was created perfect and filled with limitless creatures made in the image of the God of love. We are in the world that was created out of and into love!
And it's here that I identify with the neighbor. I look at the situation through his eyes and see all of the families whose barriers were broken, leaving them free to love each other the way they have always wanted. I see the community pulling together, the most fortunate giving whatever they have to their neighbors who need it most. I even see hands reaching from around the country and around the world to lend resources, safety, and protection to people who they will never meet. Through his eyes, I see good in the world.
And here, I know it's true: we live in a broken world. But if you believe as I do, there's a whole lot of good left between the cracks.
Always moving forward,