It has been a long year, this 2016. This election cycle and its results and plenty of painful challenges at work have left me a little ragged and feeling tired and worn out. It hasn’t been all bad. I’ve learned a lot, both from the election and the many conversations that it has provoked, and from the challenges at work that have provided areas of growth I might not have heeded otherwise. And I have been surrounded by a rich group of really good friends and family that have encouraged and counselled me, and for that I am profoundly grateful.
A big theme this year has been trust. Do I trust God? Am I willing to let Him do with my life as He pleases? Am I comfortable letting go of control, willing to be happy in spite of circumstances that don’t line up with my expectations? The verse from Job, where he cries out and says, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him” has been a recurring thought.
This election cycle has been a test of that trust. I don’t believe that Donald Trump has the wisdom, moral character, patience, and self control to lead our nation well. I have serious concerns that his inability to tame his tongue (Matthew 12:33-27, James 1:26, 3:2-10, 1 Peter 3:10, Prov 12:18) will cause serious damage to our country, both at home and abroad, not to mention what his inability to tame his tongue tells us about his character. He has shown himself to be a man who to one degree or another harbors racism and misogyny. He has demonstrated a deeply proud heart (Prov 16:5, 18, Prov 26:12, James 4:6, Psalm 101:5, Is 13:11), and has lied consistently and widely (Prov 12:22, Prov 17:7, John 8:44). Those qualities do not bode well for our nation, both because of the possible ramifications of that kind of behavior in office and because of what God promises to a nation when its leadership displays this kind of behavior.
But it was clear that my choices as a voter weren’t good. Hillary Clinton, for no other reason than her support for abortion, wasn’t an option, and Trump wasn’t either for the reasons listed above.Third party candidates had almost no chance of winning, and that meant that it didn’t matter who won, what I wanted wasn’t going to happen.
The idea of voting for a candidate that has no chance of winning is problematic. We reason that if the candidate has no chance chance of winning, you are better served by voting for the least bad option. There are problems with this kind of logic, because it forms its foundation on a consequentialist (an ends justify the means) philosophy, which is in contradiction to the scriptural examples in Daniel. But it can feel like throwing your vote away to cast it for a candidate that has no chance of winning, in effect, pulling support away from lesser evils allowing the worst candidate to win.
The real problem is one of faith though. Sometimes God will ask us to do the thing that is not expedient, to stand up to something when there is no chance of success, and to trust Him to handle the outcomes. The old and new testaments are full examples of this pattern. Look at Gideon, Daniel and his friends, and the apostles as they stood up to the Jewish Sanhedrin. Each time, God made the point that He is greater than their circumstances. And, to be clear, this does not always mean that God will deliver the outcome we want. Paul was imprisoned, beaten, and his life threatened. All but one of the Apostles died by the hand of Rome. God does not always promise that the immediate outcomes will be pleasant, in fact, Jesus promises that if follow Him, we will face persecutions. And when you look at the examples of Daniel and Paul, you find them standing up for the right thing while acknowledging that God might allow the worst case. What is profound is that it was ok.
Do I trust Him? with my life? with my death? Can I cry out honestly that “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him”, as Job did (Job 13:15). Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21), and it requires a full surrendering of my hopes and dreams, or my desires even for a life, to be able to speak those words and mean them. And in truth, God is asking us for that. He is asking every Christian for that kind of surrender.
I voted for Evan McMullin this election cycle. I did so because of all the candidates running, He was the only one who represented what I believe is right for our country. And in truth, he had little chance of winning. But I trust God to do with me as He wills. I have no faith in chariots or horses, or the modern analog. I have no faith in money or politics. But I do trust in my Father, and I know the Gospel can change things, but only if I preach it, and only if I do so not just with my words, but with my entire conversation of life, and only if I surrender everything to my God, who is full of mercy and grace, and who loves me deeply.
At work, I was challenged with the same question. Do you trust me? I lost a position of authority, and had something I created and worked on for 4 years taken from me and given to someone else. I struggled with anger, frustration, and bitterness, because I felt I had been mistreated. And I probably was, though the circumstances are rarely as clear cut as they look to us personally.
So what are we supposed to do? Do we “flee as a bird to its mountain” as David writes in Psalm 11? When your world is falling apart, and the things you hold to be foundational are compromised, what do you do? I learned what I believe is the answer to these questions a few years ago, after going through a pretty severe bout of anxiety. The simple answer is, we have to treat this world and all the things in it, as temporary and unessential. We can enjoy its pleasures, but not rely on them. We should accept whatever blessings God gives us, but not expect them. Don’t build your identity around things that can fail, be stolen or damaged (Mt 6:19). This includes not just stuff, but intangible things like relationships, status, and authority. God wants to be first (Mt 6:33), but more important than that, God knows that if we put Him first then everything else will be ok with us.
God calls us to love one another, but not the world or the things in the world (1 John 2:15). What He is telling us is that stuff, the jobs, creations, positions of influence, money, status, that stuff, has little value. People have value, not as a source of our identity, but because they are gifts from God. People need to be reached, because this is God’s commandment. They need to be loved, cared for, valued, and sacrificed for. All throughout scripture God calls us to eschew authority and serve, to eschew wealth and invest in the poor. He knows that if we prioritize loving people, serving them, that all of society is enriched.
Seeing the world as a temporary place, and holding God as the central figure in your life, loving Him first above all else, is hard. It means experiencing a kind of death. The death of your dreams, the death of your vision of the future, the death of self, and it means trusting Him. Because that kind of life, one of self sacrifice, of service, of pursuing people over property, is hard, and if He isn’t real, it makes little sense.
So God used two hard situations in my life this year to deepen a lesson He has been teaching me for as long time. To love Him more than these (John 21;13-17), to trust Him even with my life, to follow only Jesus, because He is enough. If all else fails, if nothing else is good, Jesus is enough.
I don’t know what the future holds. Not for our nation, the world with all its turmoil, or for me personally at work and at home. But I am not afraid. It may be good or it might be horrible. But I know whom I have believed and I am persuaded that He is able. I am grateful for how richly God has blessed me. I have inherited much by being born American to extraordinary parents who loved me and raised me well. I have had amazing friends who have encouraged me and helped me. But most of all, I know that whether I abound or I am abased, I can meet any circumstance with contentment and joy without fear, because my purpose and joy is found through obedience to Jesus Christ, and in the end, He will reconcile all these things.