The Puerto Rican governor declared on Monday that his government would default on its $389 million debt to the island’s largest bank. Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla told reporters “We would have preferred to have had a legal framework to restructure our debts in an orderly manner . . . But faced with the inability to meet the demands of our creditors and the needs of our people, I had to make a choice . . . I decided that essential services to the 3.5 million American citizens in Puerto Rico came first.”
It’s ironic, in a tragic sense, that his government was forced to choose between paying the debt and providing for its people given that one of the primary causes of the failing economy is a mass exodus of those same people. An average of 230 people leave each day with a net loss of over 60,000 residents in 2014 alone. To further complicate matters, the majority of those leaving are those with a degree higher than a high school diploma.
But how do you stop citizens from leaving for better opportunities on mainland America and elsewhere when those same people would be key to the needed economic revitalization that would make staying on the island a more viable option? It’s a question that the Puerto Rican government has been trying to answer for years and, as Monday’s news demonstrates, they still haven’t found the solution.
Gov. Padilla argues that a crucial part of any answer to their economic crisis will come from Congress granting them to access the necessary legal tools to restructure their $70 billion debt. However, such a decision would require a reversal of the 1984 law that declared that, because they are a commonwealth, Puerto Rico would not have access to the same debt restructuring protections as full states. It’s unclear whether or not Congress will pass any such laws and, even if they did, how much of an impact they would truly have on what appears to simply be a broken system.
As a result, the debt is likely to continue growing while more and more of Puerto Rico’s best and brightest pursue better opportunities outside of the island. While that is not the reality that Gov. Padilla and those in charge of fixing the situation would prefer, it’s the one they must address.
A similar dilemma is often at the heart of the issues many Christians face today. We look at the world around us and don’t like our present reality. Rather than accept that things are the way they are and then look for a solution from within that paradigm, we would much rather think back to a time when it seemed like the culture adhered more to biblical values and it appeared easier to bring about social change. Such wishful thinking, however, is misguided and ultimately unhelpful for resolving many of the challenges we face today.
The testimony of Scripture is that the people who made the most difference for the kingdom were those who accepted their present reality and then worked within it to do God’s will. Perhaps the clearest example is that of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. There, faced with his impending arrest and crucifixion, he prayed for another way to redeem humanity—one that would not require him to endure the suffering that lay before him. Yet, he ultimately ended his prayer by asking that, if such an alternative were not possible, the Father’s will would be done (Mark 14:34–36).
Jesus understood what it was like to look at your current situation and wish that things were different. He knows what it means to face a seemingly inescapable hardship and pray for an alternative. But his example teaches us that, when faced with such circumstances, the best, and often only, prayer we can utter is “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Often times, perseverance and a commitment to obeying God is the only way we’ll get to the other side of our present troubles. Wishing that things were different or acting as though they were will only drive us deeper and deeper into the pit we’re trying to escape.
So what’s your pit today? Most of us can think of something in our lives that just doesn’t seem fair or a set of circumstances that we wish were different. How quickly we are able to accept that situation and seek God’s will within it will often determine how quickly we can get to the other side. So as you look up from your pit today, whose will are you most concerned with? There’s only one answer to that question that will help you get to the other side.