During the 2016 elections, my husband asked our church’s Sunday school attendees to give their gut reactions to the news headlines placed before them on the tables. Avoiding any political discussions or expected church-type responses, he encouraged us to share emotions from the heart when we think through local, national, or world news.
One by one, we started to share: discouraged, disillusioned, heartbroken, hopeless, frustrated, angry, numb, hypocritical, sorrowful, lack of critical thinking skills, hopeful for the second coming, out of control, and the responses continued.
What could have been a potentially explosive discussion became a time of pointing our feelings toward this truth: God’s unchanging, infallible Word is the only plumbline that can help make sense of these days.
Regardless of where we stand politically or on issues of global importance, this year is another election year — a time when many of us have deep-seated feelings about things that are out of our ability to control or change what is happening. It only takes a few minutes on Facebook to find people spewing venom and reactions based on emotion, often without first taking time to check facts or sources. I can’t help but imagine that Satan celebrates each time believers act out, especially against each other.
In John 1:14, we are told that the Word became flesh and “was full of grace and truth.” Often, we forget that grace and truth must go hand in hand. I’ve felt a profound sense of conviction at how often I vent my frustrations and cynicisms before I first ask the Holy Spirit to equip me in my response and pray accordingly. We need to have grace toward one another and to hold onto the promises that stay true no matter what season we’re in.
Here’s what I’ve been reminding myself and maybe you need to hear this too: He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Nothing takes Him by surprise, so we can trust that He cares deeply for every decision. He is able to accomplish good, and His heart’s desire is that we seek and ask Him. That doesn’t mean that the headlines will change, but we know that He can use them for His glory.
I’m profoundly grateful that Jesus didn’t up and leave when the going got tough. He stood firm to the end and encouraged His disciples to do likewise. This is our opportunity to live faithfully in the midst of difficult times, to weep with those who weep, and to intercede on behalf of others.
Instead of reacting on emotion, join me in grabbing a Bible as we read the news for today. Let’s open God’s Word and use His truth as a plumbline to consider how we ought to engage with the world at large:
How do we fight against the principalities of this world? (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
How do we show the world who Jesus is? (see Matthew 5:14-16)
What role does slander play in the news? What is tempting about slander? (Especially difficult when it’s presented as news, so pray for discernment.) What does Paul say to do? (see Ephesians 4:31-32)
How can we know what to pray? (see Romans 8:26-27)
What does our heart attitude need to be for effective prayer? (see Isaiah 66:2b)
Also, consider the following as you pray through the headlines:
1. Pray the truth about God. He is sovereign and loving and able to answer our prayers about this topic. Speak that truth out loud in prayer. God already knows, but it helps us to declare that truth. Who does He say He is?
2. Do a heart check and ask yourself, “What attitude do I have about this topic?” Do I have anger or pride or some other response about this topic that will get in the way of my prayer? Do I have self-righteous or condemning thoughts? Ask God to forgive that attitude and help you overcome it.
3. Thank the Holy Spirit for leading us as we pray. Listen for Him to lead us now. (It’s okay to wait a bit as you listen for the Spirit to prompt you. Rest in the silence.)
4. Pray specifically for the people and the situations we read and see in the news. Pray for any change that might be needed — for salvation, for healing, for provision, for wisdom, for peace.
Now when my gut reacts in frustration and hopelessness, I open His Word. I commit to prayer and not just another “share.” I commit to bringing these news topics before the Lord, knowing that in the end He is the ultimate authority.