The world, and especially the United States, are in pretty dismal shape right now. At least that's the perception most Americans hold. Natural disasters seem to be pummeling people all over the globe and there's no one to blame, which adds to the frustration. Christians are being persecuted. Women and children are exploited and sold into the sex trade. Responsible citizens are going bankrupt and families are living on the streets. Should everyone simply raise their hands in surrender and wait for the rapture, or is there a tiny glimmer of good news?

The answer is absolutely yes, and it comes in two forms. First, because things aren't as bad as you may believe and second, because you aren't powerless against the assault of bad things that happen.

In his new book, "Upside: Surprising Good News About the State of Our World," sociologist Bradley Wright offers factual, statistical proof that all is not lost. Did you know that extreme poverty has been cut in half since the 1980s in developing countries? That paints a dramatically different picture than what most people assume to be true.

Many folks are nostalgic and express a longing for "the way things used to be." They talk of simplicity, honesty and clean living. While sipping lemonade on the porch with Aunt Bea might sound sweet and peaceful, would you really trade away modern conveniences like cell phones, the Internet and microwave ovens? "Simpler times" doesn't necessarily equate to an easier life.

Why the gloom and doom?

Why do at least 83 percent of Americans surveyed believe things are so bad? The biggest arbiters of bad news are the media, politicians and preachers.

Politicians want to promote how bad things are so you realize how much you need their help to make things better. If things were "on the right track" why would anyone vote for a challenging candidate?

Clergy want you to seek God. Sadly, many people only turn to the Lord in times of need and crisis so it's easy to focus on what's wrong instead of what's right in Sunday sermons.

Following are a few uplifting facts about the U.S. from "Upside" to counter those negative reports:

• Family income is up 240 percent since the 1940s (including adjustment for inflation).

• In the last century those who have a high school education have risen from 14 percent to 85 percent.

• Average life expectancy in 1820 was 36 years, today it's approximately 66 years.

It's not all good

Just as you're starting to feel a little better, there is more truth you might not be as happy to receive. Some disappointing things to consider are the areas of life in the U.S. that have not improved or have gotten worse in the past 30-50 years. These include:

• Less in savings accounts.

• Increased debt.

• Higher obesity.

• More single-parent families.

You've got the power

Just because bad things happen doesn't mean you're helpless and hopeless or that you must accept it without a fight, assures Craig von Buseck, ministries director for In his new book, "Praying the News" (with co-author Wendy Griffith), there is a call to respond to bad news through prayer.

Be reminded that the events of the world should never be a negative factor in your faith. All that occurs has been filtered through the hand of God. His ways are higher than our ways and His purposes may be hidden from view of the people He loves. However, He does love you and has bestowed immense power on all those who follow Him. Use it!

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Diane Markins can be reached at Visit her blog at

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