Election Angst: Five Ways to Cope No Matter the Outcome
God is in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. Ephesians 1:19-21 (The Message)
By the looks of things this fall, you'd think the whole world revolves around two people and parties: Trump and Biden, republicans and democrats. Our mailboxes are crammed with election ads and our screens commandeered by glowing endorsements--or scathing condemnations--of every political candidate in the ring.
It's easy to become consumed by the idea that our pursuit of happiness rests on the outcomes of Epic Decision 2020. And in only a few short days (weeks?), the presidential contest will be over with about half the country finding themselves dissatisfied--even distraught--with the results. How are we Americans to go on?
If our candidate wins, how can we extend an olive branch to those on the other side? If our candidate loses, how can we move forward with courage?
Thankfully, the answer to both of these questions lies not in the horse we have in the race, but in the God we serve in the heavens. As Paul reminded the people of Ephesus, it is not Donald or Joe who have the final word in the 2020's and beyond, but the Almighty, himself. Regardless of who lands in the Oval Office, our calling as believers remains timeless: To be Christ's ambassadors in a messed up world.
As it turns out, there are some practical ways to meet this challenge and calm election angst both now and after the verdict.
Election Angst: Five Ways to Cope No Matter the Outcome
1. Recognize God's Authority
God is in control. There is no disclaimer attached to this statement, nor fine print after it.
Read it again. The key to coping with politics is to recognize God's jurisdiction over every earthly matter from health care to racial reconciliation. Even when America seems to be an uncontrollable dumpster fire, God's ways are just and inescapable, meted out by his mighty hand through the arc of history.
2. Seek Commonality
Although the events of 2020 seem to have reduced every person to their political affiliation, we are much more individually than elephants, donkeys, and porcupines. We are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, teachers, police officers, doctors, soldiers, and friends. If we were thrown into an elevator together, my guess is we could safely discuss any number of topics including the weather, our local team, parenting challenges, the best brewery in town, or our weekend plans.
Regardless of whether you're in line at Starbucks waiting for your morning brew or slurping soup in the office lounge, pry your eyes away from your phone long enough to admire--and connect with--the image of God in the people around you.
At the same time...
3. Defend Your Beliefs
According to this study from Pew Research Center, Christianity in the U.S. is on the decline. Consequently, the sad truth is that many won't hear about Jesus if you and I don't speak up. If talking about your faith makes your insides turn to jelly, you're not alone. After all, while the number of Jesus followers in America decreases, religious persecution is on the increase. No more safety in numbers. No more ease of living with a worldview shared by most.
Welcome to Jesus' world (minus the public stoning and tortuous capital punishment).
Thankfully, regardless of who's in power, as Americans we still have the protection of the First Amendment. As believers, we also have a responsibility to share the hope we have in Christ, as well as his call to live holy lives that reflect our obedience to his commands. Jesus' mandate to us to make disciples of all the world is as compelling now as it was two thousand years ago. Call on the courage God gave to a puny shepherd boy when he faced an armed giant with only a slingshot and a few stones. He'll give you the wisdom to speak grace-filled absolute truth to a world hungry for real answers.
4. Limit Your Intake
Breaking news: Your neighbor's toddler just threw his spaghetti against the wall! Will he receive a beating? Don't miss the full story at 8!
Your neighbor's child's questionable behavior is hardly news. Still, the headline above is a little reminder that the mainstream media will sensationalize nearly anything to keep you watching. They will seek out the most horrific stories and partisan leads to keep your TV/radio/screen tuned to their station.
Need I remind you? You can live an entirely fulfilling life without knowing most of what's on the news. You can work, raise children, take baths, eat chocolate, and be a model citizen without perusing the daily headlines. In fact, according to this article from Lifehack, excessively consuming news is bad for your health.
Now what to do with all that extra time saved tuning out of the media? How about making a pot of soup for that overwhelmed mama next door or sending a card to the elderly friend you're missing at church? Breaking news: you've just created your own headline. Maybe one day the media will pick up on your positivity.
5. Make (Selective) Peace
Even those who've never gone to church likely know Jesus' proclamation found in Matthew 5:9, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. However, many are not aware of the intensive labor involved in making peace. Seeking reconciliation (making peace) with others involves rolling up our sleeves and grinding away at the work. It means considering others' perspectives while honestly communicating our own. It means loving a person enough to stay in relationship even when you don't share the same values. This mental yoga, while worthwhile, can be both emotionally and physically exhausting. Which is why we cannot engage in forging unity with every Tom, Dick, and Harriet out there.
Jesus--the God man--made peace with a select few. His tribe consisted of about twenty close friends and relatives. The Prince of Peace also walked away and allowed others to walk away from him without charging after them (For more on Walkaway Jesus, see the Gospels, as well as Gary Thomas' excellent devotional).
Post-election 2020, may we have the strength to wage peace with those whom God has placed in our circle. May we also pray for the wisdom to establish healthy boundaries in a world bent on picking fights. Blessed are the peacemakers!
We're gonna make it, friends. One small, holy choice at a time.