The country is literally on fire. Cities all over the country are trying to cope with civil unrest as protestors are hitting the streets in droves. This is the first time in my lifetime where it seems as if everyone in the country no matter who they are - black, white, rich, poor, red state, blue state, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim - are all frustrated, angry, disappointed, depressed, sad or some combination thereof.
We are at a watershed moment in the history of this country.
The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police, the death of Ahmaud Arbery by civilians acting as police and the racial profiling of Christian Cooper in Central Park are events that when combined with the loss of human life and the economic fallout wrought by the coronavirus have collectively brought the anger and frustration of the country to the boiling point.
How did we get here?
We know where it didn't come from - God. He is not the author of confusion, but of peace. The answer to how we got here in my opinion is simple, yet complex. The confusion and the division that led to where we find ourselves is borne from man and our own selfishness. This has manifested itself over the years in many ways.
One way is through the narratives and stories we are being told and are telling about those who are not like us. Those stories are different than the stories that we are being told and are telling about those who are like us. The lines of division are well known - race, political affiliation, religion, socioeconomic status, culture, geographic location, just to name a few.
These lines of division have caused discord since the beginning of time. America at this point in her history is no different. If there is any difference about this moment in our history, it is that everyone in the country is feeling their own private pain no matter where they are on that dividing line. Your individual pain might be shared by others, but there is indeed a lingering sense of pain and misery in the air.
How do we alleviate that pain?
How do we deal with the frustration and anger?
The answers are as diverse and complex as America. But let me point out three things that we as Believers should take into account as we search for answers to those questions.
1) Anger and frustration are valid human emotions that even Jesus dealt with
We shouldn’t feel bad if we are angry or frustrated with the current state of affairs. There is a lot to be angry and frustrated about.
Jesus felt anger. He showed his anger when he cleansed the Temple courts as he saw how the money changers were exploiting God’s people for their own personal profit. He actually did this twice. The first time was in John 2:13-22 and the second time in Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19 and Luke 19:45-48.
As a Christian, one of the things we can do is to ask the Holy Spirit to help us constructively deal with how we are feeling. Ask Him to show us constructive ways to deal with what may be the underlying cause for some of the anger and frustration - the injustice and unfairness we see around us. Just as God was with Jesus as he dealt with his anger, we should ask God to be with us, too.
When God helps us deal with our emotions in a constructive way, it is our responsibility to work with others, starting with our family then friends to begin to help others, too.
Anger and frustration sometimes need to be diffused before they overflow or burst. As Christians, we can help ease anger and frustration in others by reaching out to them, talking with them, listening to them, praying for and with them.
Many of us don’t know how or why we are feeling the way we are. Being there just to talk or listen can go a long way toward helping others deal with these confusing emotions.
2) As Believers, we are not without power or hope
One major way the coronavirus crisis has affected us is by making us feel powerless. The quarantine has kept us confined in our homes. It has disrupted our normal routines. It has put our livelihoods at risk and there is not much if anything any of us can do ourselves to change our circumstances.
On top of that, watching the senseless loss of human life at the hands of police and the unfairness of racism unfolding before our eyes has left many feeling even more powerless. We all want change. We all want things to get better, but what can we do?
The protests are one way people are dealing with that sense of powerlessness. That is a constructive way to do so. However, we have seen in many instances where peaceful protests have turned into violence and rioting, leaving many, particularly the peaceful protestors, feeling worse.
A sense of powerlessness can sometimes give way to hopelessness.
We know as followers of Jesus the Christ that he has the power. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to [Him]. Matthew 28:18. And He has deputized us on His behalf to go into the world with that power with the Great Commission. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
It is never more important, than at this very moment, for us to be about the business of the Great Commission. We need to preach the Gospel and use words only when necessary. In other words, we must be a light in the darkness, a sounding board for those who are confused and a pressure relief valve for those who are frustrated and angry.
One important lesson we can take away from the tragic loss of the lives of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery is that even though their lives seemingly did not matter enough to some, their lives are still making a difference even in death. If one incident concerning one person can be the catalyst for such compassion around the world, then that should encourage us and let us know we, too, can make a difference. Because we serve God who wrapped Himself in flesh and came in the person of Jesus, He made the biggest and most lasting impact any one person could make in this world.
3 ) Things may not get better, but still there's joy
As Believers, we know how the story ends. But in the meantime, we were never promised a happy ending here on earth. As a matter of fact, the Bible tells us we will suffer for Christ’s sake. Not only will we suffer, but we should count it as a privilege to do so. Philippians 1:29 says “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.”
But that doesn’t mean that in the midst of our suffering we can’t find peace or an unshakeable joy that surpasses all understanding. Even if our individual circumstances don’t get better and things in America get worse, we can’t give in. We can’t lose hope.
If there’s one thing we should have learned in the past three months, it is how to live with less - less food, less money, less shopping, less sports. But even with less things, we have been given more time to focus on God and each other. So even in the midst of personal, national and international tragedies we have the ability through Christ to live life more abundantly even with less.
We may find ourselves in a mix of confusing emotions without a clear understanding of what to do. We may not know the answers. But as Believers, we know where to find them and God will be with us no matter what.
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