Lessons after 40 Days in the Wilderness

40 days ago, our church held its first online service – officially beginning its exile, its walk win the wilderness.

Forty – the days of rain that fell in Noah’s day, transforming the world for a new beginning.
Forty – the years of Israel’s desert wanderings, moulding them into God-reliant children before settling into their new land (Deuteronomy 8:2-5).
Forty – the days Jesus spent in the wilderness, reliving Israel’s experience and passing the test – before commencing His ministry.
Forty what have we learned, and how have we changed during this time?

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

It can be easy to get caught up in the news: never-ending updates, statistics, bar graphs, line graphs, relief packages, and health advisories.
It can be tempting to become embroiled in the public debates – the vicious attacks, the self-justifying defences, the what-ifs and the protests.
And it can be difficult to make sense of unfolding events – provincial parks close while provincial liquor stores extend hours, and money is promised but potentially owed back.

There are those who look back and wish we did more. Politicians have called out out health officials for listening to the wrong sources, giving the wrong advice, and not taking the virus seriously enough, soon enough – as this timeline shows.
There are those who look back, and wish we did less. Critics look at the shattered economy, the struggling families, the reeling educational system, and wonder if it was all worth it. Given what we now know about the virus, they claim that our response should have been more targeted and measured.

Some people socially shame those who they feel haven’t gone far enough in social distancing.
Others protest their lack of freedom and employment, as seen recently in Michigan. People are torn between caring for public heath and caring for their next month’s bills.
And governments feel this tension – with no script to follow, they write it as they go, vacillating between maintaining lockdown, and re-opening their economies, and maintaining lockdown.

That is the climate we currently live in – but the question for us is – What are we learning through this? How are we growing, and changing? How should we?

Last month, as I was personally adjusting to the changes in our world, I shared a chart about the stages of grief. Here’s a simple expression of it:

If I were to put this into put this into Coronavirus terms, it might look like this:
Denial: Poor China! Good thing we’re safe over here (January-February)
Anger: They cancelled sports! The world is ending! Buy toilet paper! (March)
Bargaining: Well, an extended spring break isn’t so bad. Let’s renovate the house, phone grandma, and make paper hearts. (April)
Depression: Is this doing more harm than good? Will we ever recover from this? Will the world ever be the same? (May)
Acceptance: Some things have changed. I need to learn and adjust.

And one thing that’s clear is that we’re all learning as we go through this. There’s no script for such an occurrence, and it’s being written as we speak.
We don’t yet know if the death toll of this virus will ever come close to some other regular causes (see worldometer section on health), and we don’t yet know how outcomes in different countries, with their different approaches, will end up comparing to each other.
But, after these 40 days, here are some things we do know:

  1. Some things have been lost, and we don’t miss them.
    • Commuting to work in heavy traffic
    • Eating fast food on the run
    • Overbooking our calendars
    • The rat race of competition in our fields of work
  2. Some things have been found, and we want them to stay.
    • Household hobbies, like baking and gardening
    • Board games, artwork, books, and music
    • Old friendships and phone calls
    • Greeting neighbours and patiently waiting in line
  3. Some new challenges have arisen, and we’ve struggled to cope
    • The allure of escaping in binge-watching online shows
    • The false hope of discerning from news updates what the future holds
    • The fear that people feel toward one another that blocks love and charity
    • The withdrawal from unhealthy dependencies on productivity, possessions, planning, and programs
  4. Some things have been learned, and we’ve grown and changed.
    • Grandparents learning to use video chats
    • Parents learning to teach their children
    • Communities learning what they have in common
    • Churches learning that they are made of people, not programs, buildings, or events.

As we move into the month of May, we may see the economy begin to reopen. We may see restrictions lifted, and anxiety begin to ease.
But, rather than hanging on and waiting for things to return to normal, let us prayerfully ask

  • As I look back, what has changed? What have I learned? How have I grown?
  • At this moment, what is God up to? Where can I meet Him and be part of His work?
  • And going forward, how must I continue to change? What must I cling to, let go of, and more fully grasp?

And for churches, families, and other communities, let us ask

  • What were we previously doing that was unnecessary?
  • What is really essential about what we do?
  • What is the best way to accomplish that?

For years, I’ve believed that churches need to be prepared to exist without buildings and without paid staff. Historically speaking, these are temporary luxuries of certain times and places. While they can be beneficial tools, they are non-essential.
I had expected these to be threatened far down the road by an evolving culture – but recent events have rapidly brought this issue to the forefront.

Churches now, more than ever, need to understand their identity as God’s family, Christ’s body, and the Temple of the Spirit – collectively composed of individual members.
We need to strengthen small groups, practice the “one another” commands, and embrace the priesthood of all believers – each with access to God, called to follow Jesus, and gifted by the Spirit to serve.

Gaining a Vision beyond the Virus

These are troubled times. As of today, there have been 453,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Though that represents “only” 64 people per million worldwide, it would be hard to find anyone, anywhere, who does not feel that this outbreak has profoundly affected their way of life. Stores are closed, people are laid off, events are cancelled, and we are urged to stay home if at all possible. Though the current global death toll of 20,000 is still less than the average annual number of Americans who die from the flu, we daily watch that number climb as the news speaks of little else. Though, a month ago, news headlines were inundated with American politics and pipeline protests, today we watch helplessly as our way of life transforms before our eyes. To me, the sense of dread we feel bears a striking resemblance to feelings expressed by characters in Gone with the Wind – as they faced imminent defeat at the hands of union soldiers. Their way of life would never be the same. Yet, they did their best to live and love while the world around them fell apart.

Is that being a little melodramatic? Maybe. But, feelings are real, and should not be invalidated. They are part of a natural process of responding to the events of life. Recently, some have shared charts like this one, below, which explain the Process of Grieving based on the Kugler-Ross Model:

Applied to the current situation of widespread lockdown, these stages might look like this:
Shock: Emotional shutdown/suppression
Denial: Discrediting sources of information and refusing to change (flight)
Anger: Feeling cornered, like there is no escape, lashing out and releasing bottled up emotion (flight)
– Bargaining: When change feels inevitable, trying to find a “middle ground” to still hang onto some things
– Depression: A sense of hopelessness and helplessness to stop change from happening
– Testing: Experimenting with new ways of life and new plans going forward
-Acceptance: Fully adjusting to the new reality, and learning to ruction again

Perhaps this can be illustrated most memorably with a scene from the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, when Frodo expresses grief at the heavy task that lay before him. In response, the wise Gandalf guides him towards acceptance:

Gandalf adds an encouraging thought – that there are “other forces” at work in this world, and that what has happened to him was “meant” to be. Gandalf’s sense of a greater good, and a higher power gives Frodo encouragement that there can be meaning and purpose to everything in life, and that there is hope in a better future. Gandalf’s advice helps Frodo to move beyond feeling like a victim, to accept and embrace this unique opportunity to make a difference.

…to move beyond feeling like a victim, to accept and embrace this unique opportunity to make a difference.

In fact, his advice is not unlike Mordecai’s wise words to Esther, when he encourages her to take action in a time of trouble. Like Frodo, she needed to come out of hiding and recognize her opportunity to make a difference. Mordecai, like Gandalf, added meaning to her experience, and pointed to the greater purpose that she could serve.

Another interesting expression of this attitude comes in the form of Christian Spirituality. Ronald Rolheiser, a Catholic writer, describes the “Paschal Mystery – A Cycle for Rebirth.” In light of Jesus’s comment in John 12:24 that a seed must die in order to multiply, Rolheiser proposes a model of following Jesus through death, resurrection, adjustment, ascension, and pentecost – for our personal spiritual transformation. That may sound a little strange, but considering Christ’s call in Luke 9:23-25 to carry our cross, follow Him, and give up our lives to gain new lives, Rolheiser doesn’t sound far off. Moreover, Paul’s description of baptism in Romans 6:3-7 sounds quite similar – of joining Jesus in death and finding new life.

In light of this, Rolheiser offers a 5-step model for spiritual transformation:
1.) Good Friday: “the loss of life – real death
2.) Easter Sunday: “the reception of the new life
3.) The Forty Days: “a time for readjustment to the new and grieving for the old
4.) Ascension: “letting go of the old and letting it bless you, the refusal to cling
5.) Pentecost: “the reception of new spirit for the new life that one is already living

While this is not identical to Kuber-Ross’s 5 Stages of Grief, it shares the idea that grief is an opportunity for growth and newness, if it can be properly processed. For this to happen, one must acknowledge the death of the old, and welcome what is new.

…grief is an opportunity for growth and newness, if it can be properly processed.

However, if this process is not embraced, then we can get stuck in the past, and left behind. Jeremiah, the doomsday prophet of the last years of the kingdom of Judah, repeatedly warned his fellow countrymen of the approaching invasion – allowed by God to discipline His people, and turn them back to Him. Time and time again, he called his own people to surrender to their invaders, promising them that God had good plans for them in exile, and would one day restore them to their homeland (29:1-14). Yet, each successive king refused to give up what little control they had. They would rather stand against both God and the greatest empire on earth than relinquish their crumbling kingdom. They wanted to know the word of God from Jeremiah, but were unwilling to obey it; they were more fearful of change than of their impending doom (38:14-28). They refused to trust God and let Him use this crisis for good.

They refused to trust God and let Him use this crisis for good.

For our church, we have lost some things that are dear to us. Being a smaller size, we cherish the warm fellowship, and face to face contact of Sundays. Not that we’re an exclusive clique – we actually enjoy a beautiful diversity of culture, age, and background. And the wonderful opportunities for personal mentoring and practical service will be missed during this time of the virus. Just weeks ago, we were preparing a rotation of Sunday school teachers to lovingly teach our children; we were selecting new missionaries to support; we were approving our ministry budget for the coming year; we enjoyed a celebration meal with Daycare staff. My, how far we’ve come since then!

Yet, with loss, comes newness. We have embraced new technologies, like Zoom, which enable us to continue face-to-face interaction online. We’re learning to pick up the phone and call each other more, to check in and catch up. And we’re turning back to the Word for advice, and to God in prayer.

So, how might this time of crisis lead to positive change in your life? In this world?
What will come to an end?
What will take its place?

One change that has resulted from the crisis is that some people have gained a lot of free time.
Whether people are laid off or working from home, there are new spaces in our schedules.
With what will we fill them?
What new habits will emerge from this time?
How can we be intentional about the new lives we’re forming through this?

Others have experienced another change: more time at home with family. With schools closed and people working from home, new routines are required. Family members may have more time, but less personal space.
Will we learn to get along through this?
Will we grow through this to deepen our relationships, or will we “hold on until it’s all over?”

We need to develop a vision for life beyond the virus. If we do, then our actions can be informed by that, guided and empowered toward a new way forward. If we can move through the stages of grief, and accept the new reality, we can come to see this time as an opportunity to learn and grow in new ways.
Rather than “grinning and bearing it,” fighting against change, or hiding from it, we can welcome change, and approach each day with a desire to learn what we need to learn, and grow how we need to grow, in order to change how God calls us to change in these times.

…approach each day with a desire to learn what we need to learn, and grow how we need to grow, in order to change how God calls us to change in these times

Where do we go from here? How do we actually process grief in the midst of change?
What words can express what we’re feeling?

I’d encourage you to look to the Psalms, where David and other writers are doing just that – expressing their grief to God, and moving through it to a new reality, firmly footed on faith in God.

Psalm 143

A psalm of David.

Lord, hear my prayer,
    listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
    come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
    for no one living is righteous before you.
The enemy pursues me,
    he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness
    like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me;
    my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago;
    I meditate on all your works
    and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
    I thirst for you like a parched land.

Answer me quickly, Lord;
    my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
    or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
    for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
    lead me on level ground.

11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
    in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
    destroy all my foes,
    for I am your servant.

On the Coronavirus and Cancelling

It was Christmas Day, 1996. In Victoria, BC, it was -8.1 degrees Celsius, a record low. It had been snowing there for 3 days, and people were enjoying their “white Christmas.” But the snow didn’t stop – four feet of it fell between Dec. 27-29, and the city experienced the third-highest snowfall in a 24-hour period, of any Canadian city on record. Quite an accomplishment for the city with the lowest annual average of snowfall in the country. The city became paralyzed; roads were impassable, ferries were docked, airplanes were grounded, and doors were blocked by the mounds of white powder. It was said that the city became so quiet, that you could hear sea lions barking on the shores from several kilometers away.

Yet, in the stillness and silence, Good Samaritans came out of the woodwork. Donning cross-country skis, they delivered food and medicine to shut-ins, and shoveled their walkways. Then they shoveled them again – and again. For Victorians, snow is often seen as a temporary inconvenience that disappears in a matter of hours or, at worst, a few days. But when the city found itself unprepared for the storm of 1996, it brought people together in never-before-seen ways. In fact, for some, it was the best Christmas ever. (See Vancouver Island Book of Everything, p.90)

Now, in 2020, we have the Coronavirus outbreak. As of this moment, there have been over 155,000 cases, and 5,000 deaths. See live updates here. Now, I’m no expert on this issue, but I find it interesting to observe the social effects and ask what we can learn. Here are a couple thoughts:

  1. Facts are Easy to Miss
    We read headlines. We hear soundbites. But there’s a good deal of good information out there, if we look for it.
    It has been said that, though we have no vaccine ready for this virus, the death rate is relatively low (compared to other such outbreaks) and that it primarily concerns those whose health is already compromised. But, this doesn’t mean it should be ignored. It is a tragedy that so many seniors are dying from this, and we need to protect them. Yet, encouragingly, the growth curve has decreased drastically in China and Korea, where the outbreak first began. Counter-measures are working, as can be shown here.
    Moreover, given that the virus spreads through bodily contact and transmission of fluids (through the mouth, eyes, etc.), people have been advised to wash hands, avoid touching their face, and restrict contact with others. This is essentially what people already do to avoid the common cold and the flu, which kills many more people annually than this virus.
    Yet, this has been declared a “national emergency.”
    It is certainly serious, but how should we respond?
    Here are some practical steps that churches can take:
    And some more informed, balanced advice:
  2. The Power of Fear
    I have never before observed such widespread panic in response to such a threat. Perhaps people who are older than me can compare this to the nuclear scares of the cold war, when people lived in fear of an atomic bomb being dropped by the Soviets (see this article quoting C.S. Lewis’s thoughts on this). But for me, after seeing various wars, terrorist acts, and more deadly virus outbreaks occur on our planet, this time feels different.
    People have been panic-buying toilet paper – of all things. One person has stockpiled hand wipes and is making a fortune. Stock markets are plunging. These seem like overreactions – especially given the data mentioned above.
    Public advisors have wisely called for gatherings of 250 or more to be cancelled, in order to decrease the virus’s spread. As a result, major sports leagues have paused their seasons, school assemblies have been cancelled, and large churches have closed their doors on Sundays.
    I have no objection to these recommended safety measures. But what about smaller gatherings, like school classes, social gatherings, and even small churches? My own church has needed to face this question.
    No one wants to be labeled as the “bad guy” and be held responsible for spreading the virus. But I have visited malls, grocery stores, parks, and restaurants that remain open, though they accommodate more people than my church. Daycares and schools have continued, due to the low risk for young people. If they cancelled, much of society would come to a standstill. Healthcare providers, who are well-trained in sanitation, continue to treat patients in hospitals, clinics, and dental offices. So, should I still host my birthday party? Should my child go to music class? Should a small church still meet? Is it offensive if we do? Can choices be left up to individuals?
    Sometimes, in this “age of outrage” in mass social media, it feels like the greatest thing to fear is the toxic reactions of those who are offended.

Now, to change gears a bit, how then shall we live?
What can be learned and gained from this?

What is Lost
For the moment, we have lost large public gatherings. Not long ago, we were wondering whether or not the Toronto Raptors will get another long playoff run, whether the Maple Leafs will finally win a playoff series, and whether the Canucks will finally see postseason play. At this point, they all appear unlikely. There are also no concerts, no school assemblies, and no large church services. A large void has been left. Is that good or bad? Without large church gatherings, is this the end of Christianity as we know it?

A Historical Perspective
After instructing a course in Early Church History, I can’t help but think of the incipient church as it existed in the context of the Roman Empire. Christianity was officially illegal, so Christians gathered in homes, in catacombs, and public squares. Christian gatherings had to fit into their everyday routines and the common places of life (see the book of Acts in the New Testament for more on this). Yet, before it became Rome’s official religion in AD 380, before priests wore fancy robes and led services in opulent cathedrals, the young church grew rapidly, as Sociologist Rodney Stark calculates:

And how did the church grow?
Rodney Stark also shares some ideas about that. Apparently, during plagues in 161 and 251 that killed up to a third of the population, the Christians were known for staying in urban centers in order to care for the sick. They also became famous for saving abandoned infants, who were usually female. Not only did this add children to their numbers, but it demonstrated their value and respect for women in general. These factors, in addition to their willing martyrdom for their faith, added weight to their message. Considering this, one might wonder what was lost when the church became wealthy and politically powerful. For more on this, look at St. Antony and the beginning of the monastic movement.

I have often told my church that buildings and pastors are “temporary luxuries” that we enjoy and use in this particular time and place in history. They can be useful tools for strengthening the church and serving the world, but they are not essential to it. Moreover, legal status and tax exemptions should not be taken for granted. If they are ever removed, along with the ability to hold large gatherings, what would be left?

One need only to look to countries like that today for examples. Who would have guessed that Iran would have the highest Christian growth rate in the world? Yet it is doing so “without buildings and central leadership.” Afghanistan is second highest. Moreover, the growth of the church in China has become well-known, despite the difficulty of many churches to gather publicly.

So, back to the question – when we lose large gatherings, what is lost? Have we placed too much emphasis on Sunday gatherings, while neglecting our more basic calling to discipleship and being good neighbors?

What is Found
Perhaps, rather than worrying about what is lost in the case of a pandemic, we can look for what opportunities come through this.
With the loss of professional sports and other large forms of public entertainment, a void has been created.
What will fill that void?
Will we binge-watch shows on Netflix?
Or, just as in the snowstorm of ’96, will we look up from our own affairs and look to our neighbors?
Now that we are forced to stop many things, will we discover that we never really needed them in the first place?
Will we, in the quiet, in our free time and enforced space to ourselves, find that God has always been there, waiting for a moment like this, to connect?
I’ve sometimes found, in moments of enforced stillness (computer crashes, car breaks down, bus is missed, a meeting is cancelled), that they come just when they’re needed most. And periods of extended rest can often be wonderful times to reconsider our life priorities!

So, in this time of great anxiety, as we feel a sense of loss and lack of control, what will fill the void? Where will we turn?
What opportunities will God bring, and what is He saying to you?

Psalm 62
Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

How long will you assault me?
    Would all of you throw me down—
    this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
Surely they intend to topple me
    from my lofty place;
    they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
    but in their hearts they curse.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
    he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.

9/11: A Turning Point

17 years ago, as a 17 year old, I heard the news of 9/11 over the radio on my way to school. My English class sat silently, as the news developed, as the world as we knew it changed.

Today, it occurred to me that prior to that day, my focus of study was on Math and Science. And since that day, I’ve studied History, Philosophy, International Relations, and Theology.  I’ve applied myself toward understanding this world and its people, with hopes of making a positive difference

It’s been a switch from certainty to story, from problem-solving to balancing and tension – an exploration of mystery.
And through it all, there has been a constant. The words of Psalm 46, written a few millennia ago, still ring true today:

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Political Personality, Policy, and Practice…and where our Hope Belongs

Today is January 20th, 2017 – the day of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration.  Few expected this day to come – it was perhaps even more surprising than Justin Trudeau’s electoral victory, on October 19, 2015.

The headlines haven’t changed much, since Trump essentially began monopolizing them during the Republican nomination process.  There are those who cry out against his harsh manner, claiming that he lacks the temperament or personality to be a President.  Then, there are those who debate the merits of his policies, and either agree or disagree.  You can now view his speech for yourself.

I spent four years studying International Relations in university, and have maintained a steady interest in the topic during the decade that has followed.  I tend to withhold my verbal support from any particular candidate or party, and certainly don’t place my greatest hopes in them.    It can be easy to cynically claim that each party simply purchases different people’s votes with promises of funding.  Or you could claim that the parties make no difference, because there are un-elected others who run the show, behind the scenes.  Or, if nothing else, you could say that no party is perfect, since they come in ideological “packages,” each with good policies in some areas, and bad policies in others.  So, you need to pick your main issue – will you vote based on policy for taxes, environment, crime, welfare, education, religion, or immigration?

At least, I wish this was the question in people’s minds.  But, alas, it seems like the media, and many others, are preoccupied with this question: Do I like the personality of the leader?

OTTAWA, ON: March 31, 2012 – It only took two and a half rounds for Liberal MP, Justin Trudeau, red corner, to beat Conservative Senator, Patrick Brazeau, blue corner, in their boxing match during the fight for the cure event in Ottawa on Saturday, March 31,2012. (iPOLITICS/ Matthew Usherwood)

We saw this in Canada, where our left-leaning and right-leaning parties, ranked 1 & 2 in the polls, were suddenly swept aside in favor of a young, attractive, populist leader.  The NDP and Conservatives had serious platforms, soberly proposing balanced budgets that each promised a realistic way forward.  But the Liberals had a charismatic leader who, despite his slimmer credentials and lack of experience, captured a majority government on a platform of vague promises and a deficit budget.  “But he’s so handsome and nice…”

Then, our neighbours to the south did something similar.  Now, I might be saying the same thing, even if Hillary had won.  The point is not that Trump beat Hillary, but that both became their party’s candidates, despite the availability of rival candidates with clearer and more inspiring policy platforms.  It is understandable that many Democrats were excited about having the first female candidate, ever.  And many Republicans became excited about the charisma of their independently wealthy, already famous reality show host.  Both were exciting firsts.  But both parties missed out on opportunities to choose candidates with very clear and compelling policies for the betterment of their country.

But on the flip side, when it comes to criticism, I am disappointed to see how much has also focused on the personality of the leader.  People pointed out that Trump is rude.  People found Hillary to be disingenuous.  But what policies did they propose?  Who had the better ideas?  To whom would each be looking, to help guide their country forward.

Why do we do it?  Why do we obsess over the personality of the leader?  Why do we idolize them, as if they have all the answers to our problems, and the ability to satisfy our hopes?  Perhaps these yearnings and desires are not illegitimate, but just misdirected.  C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity says:

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Or, as King David said in Psalm 62:5-8:
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him;God is a refuge for us.

Now, I wouldn’t want to underestimate the importance of a leader’s personality.  In each country, the leader chooses the executive, names members of the judiciary, and can push forward his personal agenda, to a certain point.  Also, the character of a leader can rub off on others – whether it be their fellow politicians, or the public.  So, civility and respect (for the one candidate), and transparency & sincerity (for the other) would be valuable.  But deeper than that, we should be examining policy, and asking – What do they propose to do?

Yet, a final distinction should be made – between policy and practice.  Between promise and production.  Unfortunately, the jury is out on this – we will gain our answer through hindsight, rather than before the election.  In the meantime, let’s not waste our worries in the wrong places.  Consider Who is in charge, and where your hope will find rest.

Psalm 2:1 – Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

Psalm 33:10-11The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He frustrates the plans of the peoples.  The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

Psalm 42:11 – Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.