“I will pray for you,” she said, “because once I found Jesus I didn’t need to be worried about this stuff anymore,” she said. It was a comment shared on a grief-stricken social media post about election anxiety. I don’t know this woman, she’s a stranger to me, and I grant her the benefit of the doubt that she truly, genuinely cared for the recipient of this comment, that she truly, genuinely would pray for peace.
But it disturbed me, and so I checked myself. Why was I so bothered by this? Why was I discomforted by what may have been a good-natured Christian, perhaps fully at peace with what was to come and genuinely grieved at the anxious heart of a fellow believer?
Perhaps it’s because I find myself not in the place of this evolved commenter, “no longer worried about this stuff anymore,” even though I have, indeed, “found Jesus.” Perhaps I felt less-than. Perhaps it’s because the original post made me feel very known, putting into words a lot of what I have been feeling, too, so the commenter could have been speaking to me. Perhaps it was both.
But perhaps it was because I didn’t feel the anxiety in the post but rather the lament, the acknowledgement that no matter who wins this election we still have a lot of problems in this country. The grief that no matter who wins nearly half of the country is going to be disappointed at best and depressed or outraged at worst.
I wholeheartedly believe and trust that God already knows the outcome of this election, that it’s in His hand, and that He is still good no matter what happens.
But there’s a reality that stands alongside God’s providence, the greatest mystery of our faith: the fact that God being in control doesn’t prevent deep and significant suffering from happening. Because even though God is in control, the outcome of this election has major ramifications, no matter who wins.
So this is why I was so bothered by that comment, the comment that implied that once we find Jesus we don’t have to worry anymore: it’s because she is right and there is more to the story. We do not have to worry, because the Bible is clear that in Christ we have freedom, in Christ we ought not be anxious about anything. But also, in a world pre-redemption, there is pain. In a world pre-redemption our actions have consequences – consequences that God takes very seriously.
Nowhere in Scripture are we called to ignore the realities of sin, rather we are called to lament them. When we imply that we shouldn’t be concerned for unrest, for injustice, for violence, because with Jesus we don’t have to worry, we are neglecting our call to partner with Christ in making it “on earth as it is in heaven.”
So now, in this waiting-for-the-results moment, I hope that we won’t resort to the same sort of black and white, my-side-or-your-side rhetoric that has dominated this election. I hope that we don’t just choose one or the other, anxiety without recognition of God’s providence or oversimplification of what God’s providence really means.
God is sovereign, and our actions have consequences – consequences that we must grieve.
God already knows the outcome, and it may mean deep harm for the “least of these” – a reality we must call out in truth and in love.
God is worthy of our ultimate trust, and this pre-redemption world involves pain and injustice and death that we must respond to with compassion.
It’s complicated and it’s messy and it’s not as comforting as we wish it was. “God is sovereign and…” doesn’t let us sleep well at night, because we recognize all the work we’re still called to do. It doesn’t comfort us that everything is going to be ok, because God clearly states that things may be very much not ok until the day where pain and death is defeated, once and for all.
But God is a God of paradox and dichotomy and mystery. He’s a God who makes space for our emotions and our grief, and he sits with us as we lament. He does not leave us alone in our work for redemption and justice and mercy; he is the author of it all, our perfect partner, our joy and our hope.
I take comfort in this “and.” I take comfort that I am allowed to cry and acknowledge the hard stuff while also looking up toward a God that tells me I’m not in it alone, that even when I’m surprised and angry he never has been. I hope we can trade the oversimplification, the this-or-that, for the hard, messy “and.”