My daughter is obsessed with a certain cartoon princess.
Well, queen, actually. It’s Elsa from the “Frozen” movies. Elsa sings the song, “Into the Unknown.” It’s all about adventure and excitement — venturing past the familiar into something new to which Elsa feels called. It’s a pretty good song. (I should know. I have to listen to it all the time in the car.) But it’s not an easy song to relate to right now. If there’s one thing it’s hard to feel excited about right now, it’s venturing “into the unknown.”
As I write this article, none of us know what the outcome of the presidential election will be. Some people are hoping for one outcome, some are hoping for another. I understand most people’s reasoning, whether I agree with them or not. But one thing noticeably absent from the emotions of everyone (on both sides of the aisle) is any sense of hope—not hope in the sense of “I hope this happens” or “I hope that doesn’t happen,” but hope in the sense of anticipation and confidence in the future.
Proverbs 17:22 in the Hebrew Bible reads, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
And how can our spirits not feel a bit crushed these days? The world we fear (whoever we are) threatens us from the other side, and the world we love (whoever we are) appears fragile and under siege. This is true of people on all sides of the conflicts of our day, and it’s the root of the ferocity in our fighting. We are living in an existential moment, and all of us feel the threat of destruction breathing down our necks. This is true whether our cause is just or not (by whatever standard one judges such things), and whether our understanding of current events is accurate or not (which depends, of course, on who you ask).
By the time anyone reads this, it’s possible, though not certain, we will know the results of the election. If so, some of us will be overjoyed at the outcome. Others will be infuriated, heartbroken, or at least disappointed. The transition of power may happen in peace, or the streets of our cities may be filled with violence. And among all those whose way of life feels threatened by the values of the other side, none will feel altogether secure.
When we realize what a thin thread social-political realities are on which to hang our well being, it begs the question: where do we find our hope and our confidence? And the answer, I believe, is in God and other people.
When asked what the two most important commandments were in the Bible, Jesus answered that it was to love God and love people. In modern terms, that would mean to ground ourselves in the reality that there is One who has made and who loves us, and to feel the realities of those around us (even our “enemies”), and to act as much for their good as our own, in big and small ways.
We must build our lives on that which cannot be taken away.
Otherwise, sooner or later, we may lose the things that give us hope. At the very ground of our being, I believe there is One who will never leave us nor forsake us, who forgives all our sins and calls us to himself. We cannot lose this One through an election, an injustice, or even death itself. And I believe if we focus our hearts on our neighbors, our loved ones, and even our “enemies”—and choose to love them, serve them, and live as much for their good as our own — we will never run out of work, we will never run out of meaning, and we will never run out of hope.
Mike Ivaska is the pastor of Vashon Island Community Church, which is affiliated with the Assembly of God denomination.