In the wake of a disturbing election how do we cope? Here are a few suggestions from a long-time pastor.
Do not live in fear.
One of the most prominent messages from God to his people in the Bible is simply yet powerfully this; “Do not be afraid!” These exact words occur 74 times in the current NIV translation. The words were spoken in times more uncertain than ours. While this election has elicited fear on all sides for multiple reasons, it is the heritage of believers in all times to “trust and not be afraid” (Isa. 12:2). As Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Our hope is always in God, not a person or a political process. And when we feel threatened, we look to God for our hope and strength to overcome.
Do something fun
Jesus himself recognized that we needed times to get away from the stress of thinking about things like elections (Mark 6:31). Sabbath rests and time of exercise or recreation help us to keep our perspectives wholesome and they lift our emotions too. Personally, I like to take a long walk in the nearby forest preserve.
Stand firm in your own life for what is good.
One of the most disturbing things to me about this election cycle has been that it has seemed to further legitimize the rude, the crude and the divisive in America. Both parties set new lows in negative advertising. So all of us face a challenge afterwards as to what our vison is for our country and what our behavior will be. Will we be part of the decline or part of the recovery? For Christians, our course is clear. “Show proper respect to everyone” (1 Peter 2:17). “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29). This is a high calling that affects how we use language to emphasize a point or express anger, what movies we approve, what jokes we tell, how we speak about those with whom we disagree, who we choose as heroes and stars, and how we treat those different from us. Let us be “eager to do what is good” (Tit. 2:14).
A pastor friend of mine referred to this verse this morning in a post. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Ps 127:1). No matter who is in charge on this earth, peace and blessing are ultimately God’s gifts. This November is also a good time to remember one of our basic prayer verses, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7). Pray especially for our president elect whether we like him or not. If you like him, pray that God will use his strengths to benefit all. If you don’t like him, pray that God will protect the country from his weaknesses. (The same prayers could be prayed for every public servant.) Pray for the government transition in the US as well.
There is a time for everything
For younger voters especially, I would encourage a little of the perspective of Solomon. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:9). I recall a conversation eight years ago after Obama’s first victory. It was a chat between a fervent Republican and a strong Democrat. The Democrat said pointedly to the Republican, “Well, if we can survive eight years of George H. W. Bush, you can survive eight years of Obama.” I thought of that comment again last night as one of the commentators mentioned that it is extremely rare in American history for a party to hold the presidency more than eight years running. There seems to be a cycle that occurs regularly in our sturdy democracy. The pendulum swings repeatedly. I have seen enough elections now to have observed that swing multiple times and I agree. This is why parties in America go back to work and start thinking about next time, like sports teams planning for the next season.
All verses from Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2001 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved.