I have a friend who flinches when he hears that phrase. He believes that “how it is” is not “how it should be”. As a person of faith, he believes that God’s grace makes change possible, even if it’s not easy.

John Wesley believed that to follow Christ was to be discontent with things as they are. The feeling that all is not as it should be is universally felt. In a world filled with death, violence, injustice, and tragedy, it’s an inescapable conclusion.

It’s harder to see, but the uneasy sense that we ourselves are not as we should be is also universal. Some are more willing than others to embrace that truth. But it’s pretty obvious: we are a broken people living in a broken world. I would assert that our world is broken precisely because we broke it.

The gospel pinpoints our problem, sin, and promises us a remedy, God’s love revealed in Christ. Wesley wrote: This love is the great medicine of life; the never-failing remedy for all the evils of a disordered world.

The journey from being dead in sin to being alive in Christ is marked by hope. When we wake up in faith and try to follow the will of God, we usually discover in new ways how truly broken we are. God promises forgiveness, another chance, and strength to move forward. As we grow in love of God and neighbor, we continue to experience a remaining presence of sin, though it has been weakened. God promises sanctification that will continue to diminish sin’s power and strengthen us to truly love. The pathway to Christlikeness is usually made of mistakes and missteps. But as Paul wrote in Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, no one can defeat us.”

The early Wesleyans began a global movement of sharing this hopeful understanding of grace. They saw beyond individual salvation to ministries of mercy with neighbors near and far. In England and America, the first Methodists worked to serve the needs of those in poverty, illness, and suffering. They pursued the end of slavery. They worked for equality for women. They sought to change social conditions that led to addiction. As Henry H. Knight III wrote, “There was hope that God could transform society in this age such that it more closely resembled that of the age to come.”

Followers of Jesus are hopeful people. We cling to an ultimate hope in the new heaven and the new earth at the new beginning of all things. We embrace a present hope in the work of the Holy Spirit, bringing that new creation alive in our hearts and around the world here and now.

My friend is right in refusing to believe that “it is what it is”. An alternative is in order: “what it is, is not all that it will be”.

Amen and amen! So be it.