It was 1 o’clock in the morning, or maybe 4, who knows! I was somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean, returning to London following my wonderful time with the Fixed Point team in Birmingham, Alabama. Shutters for the miniature windows were down, lights were low, and sleeping bodies strewn across reclined chairs were all around me. I, however, could not sleep. My eyes were fixed on the glowing 9-inch screen in front of me.

Queen of Katwe, a film about a Ugandan girl trying to escape poverty through playing chess, had captivated me. Dominating her peers, Phiona was now facing the world’s best. You can imagine the scene. It’s David and Goliath. I’m willing her on in my seat and it appears she’s hearing me. But then disaster strikes. Phiona’s queen is taken, and before long she is back searching for scraps among filthy rubbish heaps. At that point my heart fell and my thoughts left the film.

What can be done about poverty? How can some have so much and others so little?  Can what was lost to colonialism and the slave trades ever be regained? What can be done about the corruption? My mind raced through a number of options, each one frustratingly inadequate. Each one pitiful in contrast to the world’s vast problems. And anyway, who am I to think I could possibly have a solution? Clearly, I don’t.

While these thoughts circulated, I drifted into a dream and found myself in the presence of Andy Griffith, of all people – recently introduced to me by my host family. We were outside, with other characters from the show. The sun shone. Country music was being played on a guitar. Soft chatter could be heard. However, my eye caught a man staring at me, who began to sing about slave trading.

I walked away from him, sad, affirmed in my beliefs that you can change laws but only God can change hearts. But day by day, people continue to suffer and die. I was more than sad. I woke up exasperated and deeply disturbed. Tears were rolling down my cheeks. Not for the big atrocities, I realized, but for something I couldn’t put my finger on. Something more base. “Will we have to deal with this forever?”

Over and over, I asked this and other questions until thoughts, which I don’t think were my own, flooded my mind. Countless NGOs, charities, and governments have attempted to correct past wrongs. In Birmingham, for example, apologies have been made, monuments have been raised, conversations have been had–what more could be done? Yet there remains a cavernous sense of loss and unease. The unhappy truth is clear: Nothing will be enough!

But that’s the point. The consequences of sin are so deep, so far-reaching, so permanent, that nothing short of the death of Jesus Christ could be enough. Further, we read in the Bible that at the appointed time, God takes this blood-drenched earth and destroys it, creating in its place a new heaven and a new earth.  For the first time, I saw there could be glory in destruction.

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” – Romans 12:9

Please understand that although there is forgiveness and grace, there is a lasting stain that sin leaves. Worse still, God is sensitive to the minutest of stains. This means that while I was focusing on how others viewed my exterior, God was viewing my interior. And he wants to destroy every selfish part of it. He deals with the big and the small, from wicked dictators to wicked hearts.

Thankfully, I was reminded that Jesus rising from the dead provides me with hope that He can and will bring new life, now and eternally. But while we are still on this blood-stained earth, God gives us the capacity to love beyond ourselves should we choose to trust Him. This love covers a multitude of sins; the slave-trader’s and my own.

Comforted, I thanked the Lord, leaned back, and went to sleep.