Waiting on the World to Change


By Paul Martin

baby age of 1 year looks out of windowPerhaps you’ve heard the John Mayer song, “Waiting on the World to Change.” Maybe you’ve even sung along to it in your car or listened to it on your iPod while waiting in the line at Starbucks. You might have even said, “Oh, I love this song!” when you heard it piped in as background music at Target.

I know I have.

After all, it’s a catchy song. It’s honest, too. So honest it makes me wince, actually.

Here is just a snippet of the lyric:

“Me and all my friends

We’re all misunderstood

They say we stand for nothing and

There’s no way we ever could.

Now we see everything that’s going wrong

With the world and those who lead it

We just feel like we don’t have the means

To rise above and beat it

So we keep waiting

Waiting on the world to change.”

Ugh. Just…ugh. Sadly, my only response to that lyric is, “Guilty.” If we could be honest, I think many people would admit to having the same feelings of powerlessness over the suffering in the world.

A few verses later there’s this line:

“It’s not that we don’t care

We just know that the fight ain’t fair

So we keep waiting

Waiting on the world to change.”


Since when did the relative fairness (or unfairness!) of a “fight” exempt me from doing the right thing? Which begs the question, “Then why aren’t ‘we’ doing the right thing to change it?”

Poor John Mayer, I just threw him under the bus with myself and all the rest of us who find ourselves identifying with the brutal truth of this song. But it IS an excellent question. Why aren’t more of us changing the world, instead of waiting for it to change itself? I have a theory that might give at least a partial answer to that question, but it isn’t very comforting.

I think we are deceived…by ourselves. Oh yeah, and we forget.

James 1:22-24 says this, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”

James really does not mix his message here. He says those of us who do not act out of our understanding of God’s word “deceive” ourselves. Another version calls it “fooling ourselves.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being called a fool, much less acting like one. When my actions don’t line up with my beliefs, though, I do exactly that. Put another way, when I wait for the world to change, instead of doing something about it myself, I deceive myself and forget what I have heard in God’s word.

James goes on to say, in verse 25, that “the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” [emphasis added]

So…what have I heard in God’s word? So glad you asked.

I have heard that God loves and cares for orphans, widows, and displaced persons. And that I should, too.

Don’t believe me? Then check this out:

Deuteronomy 10:17-19

For the LORD your God is God of gods, Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.” [emphasis added]

Our very great and awesome God defends orphans and widows and loves people who have been displaced from their homeland. It says so right there in the text. If that’s not enough, check out Psalm 68:4-6 sometime.

Or just read James 1:27.

Here it is:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

I thought John Mayer’s songwriting was brutally honest, but James assessment of what God desires and calls us to do (and even accepts as a pure expression of our faith) is in many ways even more blunt. He removes our excuses, our self-deceit, and even our forgetfulness by reminding us what God has asked us to do. Not because of who we are or what we feel, but because of who GOD IS.

And isn’t that always the remedy for the powerlessness that we feel when we see everything that’s wrong with the world?