“I can’t believe this! What is wrong with the world?”
There have been days when I’ve said this. Or at least thought it. In those moments, when I’ll check in on the news I’m faced with the fact that whatever I’m reading about—politics, new acts of terrorism, or Canada’s economy—makes me want to go hunker in a bunker and wait for the world to end. Those are my bad days. And it usually takes a lot for me to get there.
When I have that reaction, I’m being confronted not by something I don’t already know, but something I forget that I do. I am, in some ways, lying to myself. Because the truth is, I do know. And honestly, I am rarely surprised by the horrible things I read about in the news. Evil does not surprise me, even when it frustrates me. And hopefully it doesn’t surprise you, either. As Don Carson wrote, “While we should always be horrified by evil, we should never be surprised by it.”
Do not be surprised by evil. Hold few illusions about the world. There are many times we should be horrified – surprised, never. . . . This world is constantly trying to convince itself that we are all pretty good, that we are all saying the same things, that evil is not an endemic and systemic part of us, and that if we are nice, everything will be all right. Certainly there is no merit in being un-nice! But to hide the disagreements, idolatries, greeds, injustice, God-defying arrogance, materialist hedonism, unbelief, and just plain malice of the world is worse than naïve – it is blind. Christians will look at the rawness of history and the prevalence of evil people who become worse and worse, and they will hold few illusions. This is an essential element of faithful living in the last days1
Carson’s perspective is helpful to me—and it doesn’t make me cynical (I think). Recognizing the evil that exists in this world, even as I am grieved by it and often angered by it, reminds me of the hope to come and the hope that Christ offers to all who would believe: that Jesus will return to make all things new and put an end to all sin and suffering. That there is an end to all of this evil, and it is coming soon.
If Jesus weren’t going to return—if there were no hope for us but us—I would have no other option but to be cynical (since I can’t do naïve optimism). But he is. He has said he will. He is trustworthy. And that lets me sleep at night.