For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun. Ecclesiastes 9, verses 5 and 6.
Election Day in America is one week from today. Let’s all breathe a collective “thank God” of relief at that statement. Me, I’m a political junkie, and I’ve found myself exasperated the last few years at the state of representative democracy in my homeland. Our fiscal and internal crises are real, and external threats are still metastasizing, yet our politics seem trivial when compared to the challenges. There’s plenty of blame to go around for why this is, and there are hundreds of extenuating reasons. I have done my part in standing up for what I believe, but I can’t say it has always done good. Arguments by me and others have made for division and arguments and bad feelings. At the end of this extremely contentious election season, I’m very glad it’s almost over.
One hundred years from now, assuming this representative republic still resides on this planet, none of that contention, blame, extenuating reasons, exasperation, or collective relief will matter. True, the winner of the election will have long been in the history books (as well as in the ground with you and me), but the things we worried about in the autumn of 2012 will have long gone away to dust in the wind. The big issues matter, but the host of small things (that make big issues) will be long-forgotten. That’s the way of nature. It kind of puts things into perspective, don’t you think? All the things that we spend way too much energy worrying about are useless.
Don’t believe me? Open your eyes to a Jesus moment and remember Him telling about how all our worrying wouldn’t add a second to our lives, and about how we shouldn’t worry about things because, if God provides for birds or flowers in the field, He will certainly provide for us as well since we’re more than birds or wildflowers. Worry is meaningless. It’s not just meaningless: it’s counterproductive.
Take it from me: I used to be a real worrier. I used to spend many late night hours worrying, and if I couldn’t sleep, I would lie awake in my bed worrying about how tired I would be the next day because I was so tired from being up all night worrying. Seriously, you can’t make up stupid things like that! I used to worry about airplane flights, whether or not I would get the car I wanted some day, why I didn’t have more than one real girlfriend in high school, how cold it would get in the wintertime, and above all, what people thought of me. Give me an empty room and I would worry about why it wasn’t filled.
To tell you the truth, I can’t point to a specific event or time in my life when I gave up worrying about things. Worry darn near killed me when my wife and I were separated two years ago, and I think that part of the reconciliation process was my learning to give up worrying. It helped to make healing work. I do know that what made the difference in giving up that worry was growing in faith. You can’t have faith in a God who has our ultimate good in mind in all things and then keep clinging to the subtle idolatry that is worry. Worry places ourselves above God, so giving up that worry allows for the opportunity to get back in line with where He wants to lead us. What’s more, in concert with today’s verses, you have to let go of that worry and then step back to see that, in the long run, it is meaningless. Be concerned about important things that need your attention, and be pro-active in participating in how God wants you to act on them, but don’t worry about them. Plan, don’t obsess; have trust and faith, not worry and discouragement.
Those are good things to remember when preparing to go to the voting booth. As for the country, I know where I hope He wants to lead us. My political beliefs aren’t your political beliefs and thanks be for that. I hope God favors the candidate and the issues I support, but that’s not all up to me. God is better than our petty politics. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, both sides of our issues believe God is on their side. In the long run, those issues won’t matter much. All the specific reasons of why we will vote the way we will won’t be around forever. God, however, will be. That’s something we don’t ever need to worry about.