By Brandon Lemons
2020 was a difficult year. Turning the calendar to 2021 hasn’t improved things at all. In fact, the political climate and future of America seem even more troubling after last week’s events in Washington, D.C., with a mob breaking into the US Capitol building and threats of more violence.
I know all of us have been trying to process these events, and it’s not easy. At times like this, the world’s brokenness smacks us right in the face, and we can’t ignore it. It leaves us feeling angry, confused, anxious, and afraid. In light of what’s happening in America, I‘d like to share three primary responses that I’ve been focusing on during the past week: lamenting, praying, and focusing on the Kingdom of God. There are certainly additional appropriate and important responses, but I think these are good places to start.
Lamenting is so important in terms of pouring out our frustrations and fears to God. The biblical precedent is that when we feel out of control, when we are scared, when we are upset or even angry, we should lament. The psalmist cries out, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1). The prophet Habakkuk complains to God, “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.” (Habakkuk 1:3). Jesus Himself laments, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate.” (Matthew 23:37-38). Lamenting is so important in times like this – just pouring out our heart to God without looking for quick answers and quick comfort. Lamenting recognizes the tension between the goodness of God and the brokenness of our world. Sometimes, the healthiest thing to do is to allow ourselves to feel deeply the brokenness of the world – to grieve it, to cry over it, to let ourselves feel anger toward it – without immediately jumping to ways to solve it. This type of lamenting is best done with God in prayer, lest our anger get the best of us and cause us to lash out at others in harmful ways. All that being said, I think there is significant comfort available in lamenting because of how lamenting helps us look to God and depend on Him.
Praying is a second valuable response to the brokenness of our world. In the current situation, it is important to be praying for our nation. Second Chronicles 7:14 provides helpful themes to pray: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” America doesn't have the same type of covenant with God that Judah had (God was addressing Judah in this verse), but the themes of humility, repentance, prayer, and turning to God are highly relevant, along with the praying that divisions and animosity will be healed. A couple weeks ago, I read a quote that said, “A nation’s well-being … is conditioned by a single, pervasive cultural characteristic: the level of trust inherent in the society” (Francis Fukuyama, Stanford Senior Fellow). I read this quote prior to the events in Washington, D.C., but even then, it hit me hard. Trust and togetherness are at dangerously low levels in America, so we need to be praying that the levels of trust and care for one another will be growing.
Finally, in times like this, I take a lot of comfort in focusing on the Kingdom of God – especially its enduring, unshakable nature. It’s difficult to live in the midst of a nation we value and love and to see it struggling so much. The Kingdom of God is what we can hope in above all else, and when our earthly circumstances are struggling, it’s a good reminder to focus on God’s Kingdom. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care what happens in or to America; it does mean, though, that we have a source of hope, confidence, peace, and joy that cannot be threatened by anything that happens in this world.
These tactics for processing our world’s brokenness may still leave you with anxiety and concern. I know I still have a lot of concerns. In this broken world, especially in acute times like this, achieving complete comfort isn’t appropriate or godly. We should live with some tension because of how far our world falls short of God’s ideal. But for me, lamenting, praying, and focusing on God’s Kingdom bring significant comfort even while I still experience anger, frustration, and “holy discontent.” I pray they do the same for you.
I will leave you with some timely words from Jesus. In John 16, Jesus has been telling His disciples about the persecution and difficulties they will face as His disciples in a broken, messed-up world. He concludes by saying: “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” (John 16:33).