Post-election, the climax to a wretched 2020, no doubt many people are disappointed. The election was aggravating, contentious and divisive on both sides. Already weakened by an unexpected, global, and vicious pandemic, the nation was severed and slashed, cut apart by anger and fear, which erupted into death, retaliation, and violence. Government leaders in our nation and abroad had no idea what to do, and whatever action that was taken was perceived by someone as wrong. Whatever side you were on during this election, you lost. The “victors” are cautiously celebrating, and the other side is dismayed, licking their wounds and questioning, “how could this happen?” Ultimately, America as a “united nation” has suffered a great deal of damage and woundedness.
Why are we so divided and fractured? Why are people so let-down and dismayed? Perhaps it has to do with control. If my party lost the election, that means I have lost control to the government — right? If we lose control, we do not know what to expect, and the unknown is terrifying. What happens now? What about my health insurance, my job, my children’s education, immigration, the environment, and the economy? Oh my, so many things can go wrong in my life!
Thus, the loss of control can lead to fear. Fear can be a dreadful, helpless emotion. If a person loses control of a car, it can (and should) lead to the fear of an accident. The adrenaline kicks in to overcome the fear. To lose control of our children might mean anxious concern, loss or danger; again, our response is normal and appropriate. Yet, culture says that we must be in control of everything: what we eat (diet!), what we do (healthy measures), what we say (political correctness), what we watch, and even what we think! Fear can be caused by uncertainty, because we could not or did not control something. It is a state or an emotion of being disappointed, dissatisfied, and frustrated about my situation.
Fear seethes; it ferments. Then, it can lead to anger, bitterness, blame and resentment. We are afraid of what we do not know, and what we cannot control, and it is always someone else’s fault. This spreads beyond my own thoughts and emotions and suddenly affects all my relationships around me. The “cancer” of anger and hatred spreads like wild-fires in our culture, and truth is buried in the ashes. Do you see a pattern? Fear and disappointment are self-centered. They stem from something “bad” that happened to me. Understandable; we all want to control all the outcomes in our favor.
The good news for all of us, which is not reported in the current media reports, is that ultimately, no human being, no government, no evil tyrant is in control of our world. God is. There is no power on earth greater than God. He is bigger than our personal situations. Confusion is only confusing if we cannot rise above the ruckus and see the One who is above all. He is the ultimate authority and sovereign controller of the universe, even if we do not like to recognize that. In fact, the Bible includes evidence that in his sovereignty, he can and does use bad leaders (kings), evil authorities, selfish intentions, misinformation (Job), and human failures (see Romans 13:1-7; read the whole thing!). God is the final authority, but he is also the ultimate love. He does not always remove hard, disappointing circumstances; he uses them. He is God and we are not.
Furthermore, diversity is part of God’s plan for humanity. If we were all alike in our thinking, we would not need each other. It is a good plan, and we should enjoy not being puppets or “cookie cutter” human beings. But, there is a tension that is the result of human free-will, and some people do make poor decisions, usually based on selfish gains and on a lack of consideration for other people. The Bible also includes humble but heroic people who stand up against such evil. Jesus called out against the “hypocrites” of his day, the leaders who did not “know the Scriptures or the power of God” (see Matt 22:29; 23:12-36).
Post-election, we can hold on to the words of Psalm 34, which teaches us to “Fear the Lord, you saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (vv. 9-14).
Finally, I want to share one of my favorite prayers, attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. If only each of us could live by this prayer in our own lives:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life