You guys…all the division, fighting and nonsense. Lately, it’s enough to make me want to bury my head in the sand, or at the very least, swear off social media. But as the endless name-calling and “you’re-on-my-side-so-therefore-you-must-be-smart” gang building continues, I’ve seen some very shiny diamonds in the rough of all the ugliness.
I want to share them here, and share my own thoughts, if only to get them out of my head and onto a page – my preferred method of processing life’s hard stuff.
First, is this article that a friend posted the other day. This is the best, most un-biased description of Trump’s Immigration EO that I’ve seen. It’s so easy to latch on to the parts that one thinks are either worthwhile or completely, er, deplorable. But the parts that each side chooses to latch onto are simply that – parts. We could all do a better job of researching the issues in their entirety and acknowledging all the parts. It doesn’t have to change which side we land on, but man, it sure makes us look a lot less jerky.
Next is this little gem called “The ‘Other Side’ is Not Dumb.” I was having a discussion about something similar with husband just last week. We all tend to forget that our opinions on things are heavily, heavily influenced by our own experiences. In fact, I’d venture to say it’s nearly impossible to view the world without looking through the lens of our own lives. It makes sense; experience is a powerful teacher. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be acknowledging and seeking to understand the life experiences/reasons behind the differing views of others. If your social media feeds are filled with opinions identical to yours, consider seeking out those that are different. Listen. Love. At least consider questioning where your own assumptions and opinions came from. I can’t change the experiences that you’ve had which shape your world view today, and you cannot change mine. But we can seek to understand each other out of love and accept that many of our differences come from our widely varied life experiences rather than black and white or “right vs. wrong”.
And from a Christian perspective, I must comment on the blog of a friend from college in which she’s apologizing for a generalization she made in a post about the Immigration EO. You can read her words here. This is a woman who is passionate, out-spoken, and always encourages helpful dialogue rather than fighting. I commend her for that; it’s not easy! But she is proof that I don’t have to agree with everything someone says in order to find value in their thoughts and opinions and be encouraged to examine my own.
This little blog of hers was certainly thought-provoking. She’s drawn a fabulous distinction between “The Kingdom of Men” and “The Kingdom of God”. Her description of it is beautiful.
But I want to talk about the overlap of these opposing kingdoms, too. I think the overlap between the kingdom of man (namely, governments and the rulers thereof) and the Kingdom of God is significant – especially in the face of division among Christians.
Daniel 2:21 says, “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.”
Romans 13:1 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
And Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
(Here is another short read on what the Bible tells us about government.)
Regardless of who is in power, these verses give me such peace. They were as true of the last administration as they are of the current administration. They remind me who is really in control here. It reminds me that whether I agree with what those in power are doing or not, God has gone before us all, He sees all and He knows all and the kingdoms of man are at His disposal. My job is not to try and figure out what God is up to, my job is to trust God with all my heart, for His ways are higher than my ways. I never, ever want despair to win in my heart, for the Lord has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, of love and of a sound mind.
This becomes admittedly more difficult as I let my mind drift to the rest of the world; the countries whose citizens are routinely tortured, the refugees, the hungry and the multitudes without the conveniences of life that we Westerners typically take for granted. I often feel so powerless in the face of the world’s realities.
So again, I look to Him. What does God say about this? About suffering, and about how I am to conduct myself in the face of the magnitude of hardship people endure?
One of my favorite verses is John 16:33, which says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
In this world, you will have trouble, trials and suffering. One of the hardest things to accept about suffering is that even it can serve a divine purpose. Without question, the church is meant to care for its communities, to reach out to and provide support for those who are suffering. Yet, we also must acknowledge that suffering can be a mentor, a teacher, and, yes, even a friend to us in our walks of faith.
I just finished reading Kara Tippett’s book “The Hardest Peace,” which illustrates this in such a heart-breakingly beautiful way. Kara passed away at age 38 – leaving behind her husband and 4 children. This book was tough to read, but it and many others like it tell the same story – beauty out of brokenness. It’s the gospel; it’s our Lord’s own story as well. He was persecuted, even to death, that we might live. Broken and beaten only to be raised and glorified.
So let us all prayerfully approach how we balance acceptance and action in these days. Our God is in control, but that doesn’t mean we sit back and do nothing for our fellow man. There is mighty suffering in our world, but in our desire to alleviate it, we forget to consider the notion of God using it to build His kingdom.
I am humbled and overwhelmed by the privilege of living in this country. I am humbled by the huge, big-faith-through-intense-suffering stories of my brothers and sisters. I can’t know their experiences, but I can pray about how to help and how to humbly accept suffering of my own. I know how easy it is to become fearful at the thought of what lies ahead. But when I turn my mind to things eternal, I am also reminded that this life is not all there is. There is eternity after this; glorious and huge and too big to really comprehend. Free of suffering and full of glory – the great reward for all who place their hope in Him.