The Bible is honest about life in this fallen world. This honesty is a sign of God’s love. He’s the wise and gentle father preparing his child for that walk through a tough neighborhood on the first day of school. He’s the faithful friend praying with you before you face an unusual challenge. He’s the caring physician informing you of what to expect from the disease he’s just diagnosed.
A primary goal of all this diagnosis, description, warning, comfort, and counsel is to call us to certain ways of living. Why would you need to be “completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love,” (Ephesians 4:2) if you were not living in a community of flawed people where this kind of character is essential? Relationships in a fallen world are hard. Ministry to flawed people is fraught with difficulty. Character is needed because the world is broken.
In being honest, the Bible welcomes you to be honest as well. In its refusal to minimize, diminish, or deny the harsh realities of this broken-down house, the Bible calls us to face the facts as well. Things are not okay around us or inside us. The brokenness presses in on every side. What should we do with all this? Let me suggest five ways to pursue the character qualities to which God calls us, and in that way prepare ourselves to participate more effectively in the great task of restoration.
1. Determine to be honest.
Do not permit yourself to give way to location amnesia. Look the real world squarely in the face. Locate those places in your life where things are not the way they were meant to be and determine, by God’s help, to be a reconciler and a restorer.
2. Let yourself mourn.
If we are honest and look the world in the face, we will be sad at what we see. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). The condition of the world we live in should make us weep.
3. Fight to be dissatisfied.
I agree with C.S. Lewis that one of the big problems for Christians is not that we are dissatisfied, but that we are far too easily satisfied. We can become so content with the material sights, smells, sounds, and tastes of the physical world that we lose perspective. But if we’re honest, if we mourn to see the broken world around us limping its way into hell, it will make us sick inside.
4. Be glad.
You and I also must fight to not lose our joy and awe. Even as we fully acknowledge this broken world, we must lift our eyes to a greater truth. The Sovereign Creator God has become our Savior, and through him we are the beloved adopted children of God the Father. We must require ourselves to celebrate this every day, for all of this is the result of his grace. We must remind ourselves that Emmanuel is with us wherever we are, and in the middle of whatever we are facing.
5. Live with anticipation.
We must recall again and again that this broken home is not our permanent address. By an extraordinary act of God’s grace, all his blood-bought children are guaranteed to be part of a much better neighborhood. Someday we will all live in the New Jerusalem on a street called Shalom, where brokenness will be no more.
Last week your boss gave you your walking papers, or your teenager rebelled to your face, or you were diagnosed with a disease, or a tree fell on your garage, or your best friend gossiped about something you said in confidence, or your aging body ached, or your church disappointed you again, or you pulled your back out, or your vacation proved to be more work than retreat, or you found out that your exorbitant city taxes are being misused by a politically hungry elected thief, or you learned that someone stole your identity, or you felt drawn to something you knew was wrong.
Last week you encountered the world as it really is: broken. How did you do? Did you long for a better world? Did you seek and celebrate the grace that is yours until that better world is your final home?
Paul Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is “Connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life.” Tripp is also professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. Tripp has written many books on Christian living that are read and distributed internationally. He has been married for many years to Luella, and they have four grown children.