A massive teacher sickout shut down ninety-four Detroit public schools yesterday. The teachers have been told that unless the state Legislature approves more money for their district, there are not enough funds to pay the teachers their salaries past June 30.
The teachers’ union clearly believes their action will motivate legislators to approve an education reform package being debated in the Michigan House of Representatives. The state’s governor disagrees: “That’s not a constructive act with respect to getting legislation through.”
If you were a teacher in Detroit, what would you do?
This is not an isolated situation. According to New York Times columnist David Brooks, the popularity of the Trump and Sanders campaigns “has reminded us how much pain there is in this country.” He notes that the suicide rate has surged to a thirty-year high. A record number of Americans believe the American dream is out of reach, while social trust for millennials is at historic lows.
Brooks is right: Many are convinced that the “system,” however it is defined, is rigged against them. Trust in institutions has perhaps never been lower than it is today.
It’s hard to find reasons for political optimism here. In our globalized economy, no legislature can prevent every financial crisis. In our polarized society, no president can please both sides of our moral chasms. Either life begins at conception, or it doesn’t. Either marriage is a holy union of a man and a woman, or it isn’t. Either life is sacred until natural death, or it isn’t. It’s easy for Christians to be discouraged by our decaying post-Christian culture.
But know this: discouragement is one of Satan’s most effective tools, because no one knows it’s his.
The good news is that God is present in your life and world, whether you’re encouraged or discouraged at this moment. As Craig Denison notes in today’s First15, “No sin can separate you from his presence because his presence comes to you by grace, not by your works. So great is God’s love for you that he offers you his gracious presence regardless of anything you do, right or wrong.”
So receive Jesus’ gracious presence and choose to follow him, no matter what. In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis notes that the devil’s cause “is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
What is the secret to such obedience? In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus faced the greatest suffering any human being has ever endured. His body would be crucified, the most horrific form of execution ever devised. But even more, his sinless soul would bear the malignant sins of our entire fallen race. Facing such torture, he said to his Father, “Not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Now his Spirit is ready to empower you to say the same.
Obedience when it’s hard is the greatest obedience of all.