We’ve all said it. A friend has a bad cold and feels miserable. A neighbor just found out he has diabetes and is overwhelmed by what it will mean for his life. A spouse just hit a deer, totaling the car. A child breaks his wrist and is out for the rest of the sport’s season. We want to be helpful. We want to say something encouraging, but the best we can come up with is, “It could be worse.”
We know it’s true, but even as we say it we know it’s not that great. Sure, other people may have things worse. Yes, other people might have a harder life or a more severe condition or a more life-threatening diagnosis, but does telling someone who’s suffering that it could be worse really help? Does it bring you comfort when you’re suffering to know that other people are suffering more?
And typically, we don’t even stop with It could be worse. Often we add boneheaded things like, You could have cancer or she could have died or you could have been paralyzed. Again, those statements may be true. These things could have happened to people. And these things may indeed be worse than the things that did happen to them, but again, does this really help the sufferer?
Further, what is left to say to the person who does receive the cancer diagnosis? What can we offer to the family whose loved one did die in the car accident? What comfort can we bring to individual who was paralyzed in the freak accident? Are we to imagine worse scenarios? You could all have cancer. Or You could have all died. Or You could all be paralyzed. Are we to imagine a worse scenario for every sufferer so we can continue pointing out that it could be worse?
What if there was something better to say, something that both acknowledged the profound brokenness of the situation and something that turned our hearts heavenward toward the source of our comfort and hope? What if instead of saying It could be worse we offered this: It will be better?
First, It will be better acknowledges that it’s not good right now. It acknowledges that the person’s particular suffering isn’t good. In fact, built into this profound statement is the acknowledgement that since the fall of Adam it hasn’t been good. His sin brought death, but not only death; his sin brought the process of dying. Sin is the cancer of the earth, warping not only the thoughts of man, but infecting his very body. We are beset by sin-sickened cells. And nobody, repeat nobody, gets out unscathed. Existence on a sin-cursed earth is going to hurt. Period.
It will be better acknowledges our current condition. We are the walking wounded. Our particular suffering may or may not have had anything to do with our individual choices. The reality is, in a sin-haunted world people are going to get hurt. People are going suffer. It’s going to hurt.
It will be better! We’re not going to walk wounded forever. We’re not going to suffer through mean colds. We’re not going to fear medical diagnosis. We’re not going to bury our loved ones. We’re not going to limp broken forever. Because it will be better. It will be better when Jesus returns and raises the dead, sets everything to rights, and renews the cosmos.
Very briefly consider the Biblical promise. First, the dead in Christ will be bodily raised. Here’s the way Scripture speaks (in 1 Corinthians 15): the dead in Christ will be raised physically and given imperishable, glorified, powerful, and Spirit-empowered bodies. That’s outstanding!
Can you imagine imperishable bodies? These are bodies that don’t die. Even more, they don’t undergo the process of dying. They aren’t threatened by death. They’re immune to it. So, all the things in this life that we fear, things like cancer and diabetes and COPD and pneumonia and on and on, will have their teeth knocked out in the resurrection. They won’t be able to bite us because we’ll be impervious to them and immune to death. It will be better.
Can you imagine glorified bodies? Glory is the overwhelming effect of God’s presence. It’s the hurricane-force power of God’s being. It’s the sunrise on the precipice of the Grand Canyon, the eruption-on-the-rim-of-Mt.-St.-Helen, the jet-fuel-explosion-at- the-base-of-the-Falcon-Heavy-rocket effect of God’s presence. Our bodies are going to be raised in that! We’ve never experienced anything like this before and we’re going to stand in that glory and live in it forever when Jesus raises us. It will be better.
Can you imagine powerful bodies? Think Superman (minus the silly cape and embarrassing spandex, and the flying) and you’ll get the idea. We will stand in the power of God and the kryptonite of sin will be gone. Our bodies won’t experience sin sapping our strength ever again. It will be better.
Can you imagine Spirit-empowered bodies? Right now we are beset by the same sins over and over again. Like a dog attracted to cat scat, sin smells good to us. And our whole life long we return to roll in it until we start to think the stink is permanent. It’s not. When Jesus calls our bodies out of the tombs He’s going to give us the fullness of the Spirit who will empower our bodies and liberate us from sin’s lure. It won’t smell good to us anymore and we will never again be tempted to roll in it. Imagine how much better life will smell! It will be better.
Second, Scripture announces that Jesus is going to set things to rights. That’s what it means when it talks about God judging the earth. It’s a gospel word. It means that God is going to banish evil. Evil is not native to this earth; it’s an intruder and God, when He judges the earth, is going to evict evil. God’s creation and people will finally be free from everything that corrupts it and attacks it. It will be better.
Third, Scripture consistently and repeatedly directs our attention to the age to come (beyond the “dying and going to heaven” age that so many Christians can’t seem to think beyond). Scripture anchors our eyes in the renewal of the cosmos. Paul (in Romans 8) writes of the creation waiting on the edge of its seat for the revealing of the redeemed of God. Why would creation care? Because it’s going to be released from the curse inflicted on it in Adam’s sin! It’s going to be released from its bondage to decay and corruption. Nature will no longer be “red in tooth and claw.” Predator and prey, as Isaiah so often prophesied, will live in peace. The wastelands will bloom with new life. The polluted soil will be cleansed. Creation will shine with newness and freshness. It will be better.
And God will live among us. Heaven will wed earth. And God has guaranteed this marriage will not end in divorce. Yes, things may be bad right now. You may be broken – profoundly broken. We walk wounded with you. But we do not walk in despair, because it will be better! – Pastor Conner