Question:

Mr Jeffrey, I really need your help with a lot of things!

First of all, I know my life isn't right and before I try to change other people I need to change myself first. I'm a Christian but yet I find myself still committing sins. I want to change this world! I want to change people! I want to change lives! I want to do a lot of things!

Each day I wake up and I see the way people are living. Terrible living conditions. Some people hungry while others are wasting food. People with no money, no home and nothing and I'm here wasting my money on things I don't need. People fighting. People cursing. People bad talking God. People killing others. People dying for no reason at all. People just being mean and cruel. Like it just all hurts me. I want to do something, but I don't know what or how!

I recently got robbed and the four kids, all older than me, came up to me with knives and took off with my phone. It didn't hurt me that I lost my phone. It hurt me that this is what kids are doing to get a what they want, and they don't care who they hurt in the process. To me I believe they don't have money or anything other kids have, so they use the only option they think they have, which is to steal. It's hard out here and this is something that really needs to stop. It's wrong though, and I want to stop it. I'm scared just being alive. I'm scared for the people I love. I can't walk down the street without being in fear! This is what's bothering me. I made up an acronym of what life is: "Living In fear Every day", and it seems to be true. I want to put a stop to it!

I go to church every Sunday, and I communicate with kids there. Some of them curse in the church and some curse as soon as they leave the church. They sin often and it kills me also to know that their life is really bad. I'm not perfect either, but I have learned how to control myself. I've heard so many people say comments like, "The people who go to church are the worst kind of people out there," and it's really disturbing because it's true. We are supposed to be setting examples. If the pastors in our church knew what I know, they would be so devastated. The kids who sing in the choir and who work with the church as staff are doing wrong.

I'm tired of seeing and hearing the word "atheist." It gets me mad when I hear people talk about my God in a negative way, when they mock Him, when they say His name in vain and laugh about it, when they talk about Him in my school it gets me angry. People are really getting worse! On a video on YouTube the comments people were making were so cruel and evil. A gospel song by Darwin Hobbes had so many negative comments that it almost made me cry.

Or when the teacher has us reading books in school with cursing it gets me angry. I have no choice but read it. I mean I could say I'm not going to read it, but then I might get in trouble. Some of the books are really good but the cursing and negative parts just ruins everything. Like songs: I find myself listening to a good song and all of a sudden there's cursing. I get really mad because it was a good song and that's all the words the artist knew. He wasn't able to expand his knowledge and come up with better words.

I'm tired of seeing people fighting. Arguments over foolishness, and people getting killed for nothing. I'm tired of waking up to gunshots. Or loud sirens and the sound of helicopters circling nearby.

One solution that I have thought about when I become famous and have power is to either eliminate money or really cut down the prices on things. Think about it. If things were cheaper people wouldn't have to rob others, steal or commit crimes because they will be able to afford it.

Really enforce laws and have like a death penalty for those who commit any crime but don't actually use the death penalty. It will just be to make them fearful and know the consequences.

I have more but I just wanted to let you know how I feel and ask if you have any advice for me. I believe it can work. I believe that I can do all of this and show people that there is a God and make them believe. With everything I do I will show God in it. I'm just tired of everything!


Answer:

There is a wonderful prayer that I think hits the heart of what you are seeing:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

by Reinhold Niebuhr

You are right that this world is in a mess. It does need fixing, but you missed a critical point: you can't make people be righteous. You can encourage righteousness. You can punish unrighteousness. But people are going to make bad decisions.

Just outside my window there is a stop sign. It is there for safety reasons. There is a school across the street and you can't see the cross traffic because of the houses. Yet despite it being there, and for good reasons, a few people ignore it. That is the nature of law. It is supposed to point to the better way for people to live together, but we understand that some are going to violate it. We have punishments, but people will still ignore the law.

The core is that each person is responsible for his own decisions. "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself" (Ezekiel 18:20).

The young people who robbed you did not do so because they didn't have money. The typical thief usually has plenty of money but is wasteful of what he has. He finds it easier to take from people than to earn it. He likes the feeling of power it gives him over others, so he'll take even beyond what he needs. "My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, "Come with us, let us lie in wait to shed blood; let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down to the Pit; we shall find all kinds of precious possessions, we shall fill our houses with spoil; cast in your lot among us, let us all have one purse" - My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path; for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. Surely, in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird; but they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners" (Proverbs 1:10-19). There are lots of young people in worse situations than those who robbed you who did not choose the way of sin.

I'm glad you not only see the problems, but that you don't just complain about them but want to fix them. However, you need to realize that problems, as a whole, will not go away. "What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be numbered" (Ecclesiastes 1:15). Poverty can never be wiped out because there will always be people too lazy to work. "For you have the poor with you always" (Matthew 26:11). The second problem is that the quantity of problems in this world is beyond counting, let alone fix them all. This doesn't mean nothing should be done at all; I just want you to have a realistic view of what you can and cannot do.

There is a old story of a man walking down a beach after a storm. Periodically he would reach down and pick up a starfish that had washed up and toss it back out into the sea. A friend came up to him and asked him, "Why are you doing this? Can't you see there are too many for one person to rescue?" "True," replied his friend, "but I made a difference to this one," as he tossed another back into the sea.

"And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:9-10).

Therein lies the key. You do what you can when the opportunities arise. You make a difference to one person at a time. You may not change the whole world, but you do change the world for some.

I lived for a number of years just north of New York City, so I understand the frustration you face, but what you may not realize is that most of the United States is not like the big cities. Yes, society has been decaying but there are people who are standing up to say this isn't right. They are making a difference that ripples out. I pray that those ripples combine into a tidal wave back to morality.