Recently I was talking with a few friends about a highly frustrating situation that was fresh on my mind. I wasn’t the only one that been impacted by the actions of another person in this occasion and in multiple other instances that we milled over in painful detail. One of my friends asked what I thought should be done to change the situation. She, more or less, had already concluded that it was hopeless.
I paused and reluctantly agreed that there wasn’t much to be done… after all, I said, feeling somewhat defeated, “people don’t change.” Which is mostly true. People don’t change. Situations don’t change. The same injustices we saw 50 years ago, we saw 20 years ago, we saw last week, and we’ll see tomorrow. We see the same people making the same mistakes. Over and over and over again. We probably even see ourselves doing the same things: drinking the same coffee in the same mug every day, taking the same route to work, liking the same type of people, uttering the same things under our breath when we are frustrated. Considering what we see and what we experience and having the laundry list of examples rattled off to me of how history had repeated itself with this person, I guess it was not surprising that I concluded, “people don’t change.” And it is true: people and situations don’t change–except, until they do.
My family recently experienced an “until they do” situation. It has reminded me of God’s power to break into and transform our lives and situations that seem hopelessly unchanging. You see, for several years, we had been praying and hoping for a change in a deeply bleak situation in the lives of some distant family members. There seemed to be no solution to the problems. And if anything was changing, it seemed only for the worse. I’m sure you can relate to such scenarios in your life or the lives of friends or family members. Maybe you used to hope for and work for change. Maybe you used to pray for some resolution. Maybe you used to get frustrated about the injustice of it all and were committed to making a difference. But the days, weeks, months, and perhaps years, have passed. You don’t get frustrated anymore, because frankly, nothing is changing. Maybe you don’t pray for situation to change anymore, because it seemed that your prayers were going unanswered.
I admit that some of that description matches were I was at. At some points, I would be deeply concerned about my family members, would pray, would be committed to doing something. But lately, my attitude was probably better summed up as removed and feeling that nothing was going to be different.
When things changed for my family, I caught myself reflecting on my conclusion about the other situation–that people don’t change. I realized that while, in many instances, we know this to be true, it is not always true and fails to recognize God’s powerful transformational work. As a believer in and having experienced Christ’s redemptive and reconciling work in my own life and having witnessed it in the lives of others, I can’t write people and situations off as “hopeless”. I am and we are called to seek justice, work for reconciliation and restoration of relationships and people–even, and perhaps, especially, when it seems hopelessly unchanging.
I am reminded of the often quoted verses on love in I Cor. 13.
I Cor. 13: 4-7 (NIV)
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love is patient. It always hopes and always perseveres. May my outlook and assessment of situations be based on patient, hopeful, preserving love and trust in God’s ability to transform, and especially at times when I am tempted to conclude that nothing ever changes.