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Why America is Not Better

“Is life better in America?” The passport control officer asked me as I stood waiting for my exit stamp from Ukraine.

“Better?” I responded, “What do you mean by better?”

I continued, “For me it’s better to be where my family is and my family is in Ukraine.”

“For me life is better in Ukraine!”

I have a US passport and Ukrainian residence permit but neither of those things determine the best place for me to live.

I have a US passport and Ukrainian residence permit but neither determine the best place for me to live.

It wasn’t the first time a Ukrainian had asked me if  life was better in America. In fact I’ve been asked the question so often over the past 5 years that I crafted an answer which would point people to some important truths.

When people ask me if  life is better in America they assume that their definition of better and my definition of better are the same. That is why my first response is to ask them a question. “What do you mean by better?”

Better is not determined by how much money you have

In my experience with people money is often a big factor. The assumption is “If I just a had a little more money then my life would be better.”

It’s easy to fall into that trap ourselves. Money seems to resolve a lot of problems.  However, the reality is that money doesn’t really solve the problems in our life, it just gives us more options. Those options often complicate our life and easily lead to greater problems.

Better is not determined by the conditions you find yourself in

Usually people are thinking of “the good life”, like a great job, lots of free time, a bigger more beautiful home, a faster, shinier car, access to the newest technology and so on. If it’s fun, if it’s comfortable, if the movie stars have one then it must make my life better!

These things only affect the outward conditions of your life. It’s not hard to find examples of movie stars and millionaires who ruined their lives with drugs, crime or committed suicide. They had the “good life” but the good life wasn’t better for them!

To make life better you need to work from the inside out and not the other way around.

Better is determined by the people around you

This is usually what I start with when I explain to people my understanding of better. God built people for relationships. When you focus on building and strengthening the most meaningful relationships in your life, your life in turn becomes better.

For me my relationship with my wife and children are at the top of the list!

Better is determined by your attitude

Are you thankful? Are you joyful? Are you gracious? Are focused on the good of others? These are life altering attitudes and can immediately make your life better!

Better is determined by your values

Ultimately the “betterness” of your life is determined by the things which you most highly value. If you value the external and temporal like money, pleasure, and things you will always be disappointed. However, when you turn your attention to internal and eternal values you will find that your life can be better no matter what country you live in.

Question: How would you answer the questions? What makes your life better?

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I am a pastor, missionary, and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ukraine since 2007. God blessed me with a wonderful wife and 5 amazing children!

My greatest passion is to teach, encourage, and exhort others to turn to Jesus, who is Savior, Lord, and God!

  • I agree with you totally… Better is not what we have, but (for me) who I have. Relationships enrich our lives, not stuff.

    • Joseph unfortunately people are often misled by our consumer oriented society to think that things will make life better.

  • Insightful post. I think many people think fame and money equals happiness and ease. Those are only tools and not the source of significance or happiness. Great thoughts Caleb.

    • That’s a good way to put it Dan, fame and money are only tools and not the source of happiness. Makes me realize the importance of having a plan to utilize those tools properly.

  • I think satisfaction comes from finding and doing God’s will for your life. In a side note: I don’ like the song “God Bless America,” because I think he blesses each nation equally. Or at least there is that potential.

    • Dan, your right about finding God’s will, there is great sanctification in that and we can know that we are in the best place possible when we are in God’s will. That doesn’t mean it is the safest or most comfortable but it is the best for us at the moment.

      Personally I think it’s ok to sing “God bless America” Blessing is a good thing and asking God to bless America doesn’t mean that we don’t want him to bless other countries. I pray for God’s blessing on America and on Ukraine where I live.

  • Nancy

    Great article, Caleb. Each of your points is so true. One thing I thought of is that no matter where I am, or what heartache or difficulty I am going through, leaning hard on God makes it clearly better. He gives focus, purpose, and uncomparable comfort. This reminds me of that great song–“I’d Rather Have Jesus than Anything the World Affords Today.”

    • Having Jesus is certainly the best we can have!

  • Rina

    An unique article. Blessed from this. For me personally, on top of a list is my personal relationship with God followed by relationship with others and/or loved ones.

    To know Jesus is the best thing that ever happens in my life, in fact in the entire human’s life. He is with me ” wherever ” I am and nothing else matters.

    God bless

    • Rina, thanks for your response. You can’t go wrong with Jesus not matter what country you live in! It’s important that we keep the perspective and realize that everything good isn’t really that good without Jesus and things that seem bad can actually turn out for good with Jesus.

  • Bruce MacDonald

    We are the same in Ukraine. Ukraine is our home, because we live here, serve here, family here…this is where our life is. It isn’t about the money, we give most of that away. We are where God wants us, and that makes it all the sweeter.

    • Thanks Bruce, I appreciate your thoughts. Being where God wants you to be makes everything better in my opinion! Blessings to you!

  • Chris


    Good article. I think many people have been fooled into believing that easier is better. Easier is just easier. And nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. But we sure like to wish it would and pretend it does.

    • Chris, that’s a good way to put it, easier is not better, just easier! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  • My friend and co-worker, Georgi Vins (now deceased) grew up in the USSR and spent 8 years in in prisons and labor camps for being an active Christian. From him I learned an expression among believers in those days. In English it goes, “With God, even in prison there’s freedom. Without God, even in freedom, it’s prison.” Attitude and relationship to the Lord can make a huge difference in outlook.

    • Great quote Rick, Georgi Vins had a great testimony. Thanks for sharing.