What do we want out of life?
As I think about the future of our country, my faith and the era of civil unrest we're going through right now, I wonder what it is we're actually hoping for as Christians and Americans. Where is our focus? What is it we really desire out of life? How do I reconcile my christianity and politics?
I think we've lost our bearings as a country and as a people. It seems our goals in life can be reduced to two basic things:
- Live in a safe and secure world
- Get what we want when and how we want it
For two hundred years we've lived in the future, believing that tomorrow would be better than today and today would be better than yesterday. I still believe that.
I realize those are gross generalizations and there are many, many exceptions, but I think we can all agree it describes our neighbors or the people on our Facebook feed even if it doesn’t describe us.
Tell me if this describes as many of your Facebook friends as it does mine. We think if the right person was in the White House or we read the right book or if everyone would just be nice to each other, our problems would all magically go away. If our political leaders would just sit down and talk to each other or if the protestors would just go back to their houses and stay there, everything would be better. Right?
The only problem is, all these solutions don’t consider that we’re all sinful creatures. Even if our current problems suddenly went away, we’d create new ones just as quickly.
We fight and strive and pray for safety and security above all else. We ask God to help us become or stay healthy, wealthy and wise. When our kids leave the house or our missionaries leave the country, we pray for their safety above all else. “God protect them and bring them back to us safely,” we pray. Tell me you haven’t heard your pastor – or yourself – pray those words.
I’ve prayed them too. After all, no Christian wants bad things to happen or people to get sick or hurt.
A Godly life is not about our safety
Upon further reflection, though, I’ve come to realize I should be more interested in and earnestly praying for God’s work in me and the world to be accomplished regardless of how it affects me and my safety. If you’re interested in exploring this reasoning, check out Emily Gardner’s 2013 blog post “Praying for Protection” or Francis Chan's book called Crazy Love.
Words like that are easy to say and hard to live, though, so as I thought about how to write this article, I wanted to add something to the conversation rather than simply reiterating what’s already available. When Christians pursue our own desires (i.e. safety) above God’s desires, we’re putting our focus in the wrong place. We begin focusing on ourselves and expect people – other sinners – to take care of things only God can truly take care of.
No president, no pastor, no husband or wife or boss can fix our problems or secure our world. Only God can. Our focus should be on Him and Him alone.
How to stay positive in a negative world
But how does that work itself out in our lives? How can we focus on God when we’re inundated with fear mongering? Here are a few suggestions.
- Don’t watch the TV news and greatly reduce your time on social media.
- Increase your time in the Bible and prayer.
- Find a place in your local community to serve others. Choose a cause you’re passionate about and get involved. Feed the hungry, clothe the poor, take care of widows and orphans, etc.
- Avoid negative conversations as best you can. If you get trapped in one, try changing the conversation to what God can and has done rather than commenting on what a politician hasn’t or won’t do.
- Write, email, call and visit your political representatives at all levels and voice your concerns in respectful ways.
And while these ideas may seem like running from the problems or shirking your civic duty, I would argue it’s the opposite. Plus, by doing this, you will:
- Reduce the conflict and stress in your life.
- Increase your hopefulness in the future by turning the problems over to the one person that can actually affect change.
- Get involved in ways that make a difference in causes you care about and show God’s love in tangible ways to those in need.
- Participate in the political process in helpful, productive ways rather than distracting or destructive ones.
Be the witness you'd like to see in others
While finding clickbait articles we can share on Facebook or fighting a comment battle on someone’s post may make us feel like we’ve done something to help our cause, it really won’t accomplish anything except helping widen the divisions that already exist.
How about we choose the better, more noble road and do something that can bring unity instead of division, peace instead of disagreement, and hope instead of dread?