Do you ever find yourself having to push down that sense of panic, doom, or dread? It pops up not just in our thoughts but wherever we bodily lodge our stress – in our throat, gut, back, wherever.
We in the US are several months away from our every-four-year presidential election, and yet we are forced to think about it, and puzzle over what a bloodbath it will be (not literally but experientially with one side driven to shred the character of the other).
How are good decisions made in such a government and culture? I actually ponder this way too often.
My own preference is to bring everyone possible to the table (for sure a sampling of those affected by the decision) and reason together (ancient wisdom, right?). My personal sensibilities cry out, “Why can’t we all get along?!”
One issue always before us as a nation and as neighbors is what to do with and how to serve marginalized, displaced people? I’m not really addressing this today, but don’t you feel for Texas? I’m part of a refugee resettlement team (with my church), and it is a stretch for us to serve well one family (sometimes others peripherally). Then there is the occasional person in need who finds us online and asks for help. Just this week, it was a mom with three small children who separated herself from an abusive partner and now she is faced with the dire circumstances of inadequate resources to care for her family.
This is just a microcosm of what is going on in our nation serving the needy in a sustainable way.
So how do I choose hope?
Just this morning, I was reminded of a historical account in the Bible (Torah). It tells of a time when Jews were essentially captives in Persia. During this time, a young Jewish woman named Esther actually became the queen of King Ahasuerus. An evil aide to the king plotted to rid the kingdom of the Jews and tricked the king into a decision that would lead to their destruction. Esther’s cousin and guardian, Mordecai, counseled with her to appeal to the king, for the sake of the Jews.
“If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s family will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” – Esther 4:14
Mordecai’s words ring out with hope, even in the midst of danger. If Esther decided not to speak to the king (which could lead to her own death sooner than later), Mordecai trusted God to deliver His people another way. However, “for such a time as this”, Esther did risk everything, and the result was salvation for her people. That was a great “perhaps” that Jewish people, to this day, celebrate with joy.
When we choose hope, we choose to trust a power greater than ourselves. Sure, we can hope in the general goodness of humankind, or a particular political party, or some sort of karma, or a mystical future where everything somehow works out for good.
Hope and trust go together. I choose to hope in God and, with a long view, take joy in His goodness and power to redeem. To some, this may seem as silly as any other singular source of hope – our trust in any of the above to pull us from the brink. However, throughout history and in my own day-to-day, I find God infinitely trustworthy.
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples made by human hands. Nor is He served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move, and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’ – Acts 17:24 -28
Perhaps is becoming a favorite word of mine. We can’t presume to know how elections will turn out. Or what are the best processes for caring for marginalized and displaced peoples. Nor can we presume on God to bless our partisan preferences just because we feel more comfortable with a certain status quo.
However, we can seek to be wise and loving, and hope in the sovereign movement of God through the ages. We can take our place in history to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God and one another. Refusing to be silent, or isolated among those like us, or mired in doom and gloom should our culture continues to shift…which it will, one way or another.
We can hope and wonder at the “perhaps” we can’t see but imagine and act accordingly.
Then comes joy. Full-on. Trusting-a-good-God joy. Untainted by present circumstances. Deeper than happiness. Trusting in God and acting on what we know to be right and true…right now.
Postscript: Should you decide to take this course of action, choosing hope and joy, be prepared. It is counter-cultural. You will come under attack. Maybe you already know this experience. Not many minutes after posting this, I had a gut-punch of fear and anger. Ours is to recognize those attacks when they come at us and respond in ways that nurture hope and joy – guarding our hearts and minds, living quiet and productive lives, serving others, and fixing our eyes on the One who brings perfect peace.