Against my better judgment, I am going to do something here that I rarely do – mention politics. I am sure little good will come of it, but I’m feeling lucky today so here goes. I am not a member of a political party. I vote based on who I think my values and ideals most closely align with, regardless of their political affiliations. Some people say I am wasting my vote, others say that it’s about weighing the lesser of to evils. I just simply have an issue voting for someone I disagree with on what I view to be major issues, like morals and values. Over the last two elections, I have had to break some of the “rules” I set up for myself about voting, in order to not break the biggest one – don’t vote for someone you don’t believe has demonstrated the ethical, moral and vocational standards to hold office. It seems the older I get, finding those people is getting harder, not easier, but nevertheless, it is something I am going to hold fast to.
Believe it or not, there is a method to my madness – a reason I dared to bring up politics – and now I will get there. Over the past couple decades (perhaps it was there sooner and I’m just now noticing it), a phrase has become more popular when people of dissenting opinion speak about the President. That phrase is “not my President.” I have seen it on bumper stickers, social media posts, tagboard signs at rallies on the news – it seems to be everywhere. It also seems to be an attempt to absolve the person using it of any responsibility, or accountability regarding the policies or actions of the current administration. While I understand the “heart” behind it – and at the risk of being accused of being a simpleton – I would like to point out that it is, first of all, not true, and secondly, not affective. He (or someday she) is (no matter whom/when), in fact your President, and also, the statement itself does not absolve you of having to deal with, or suffer from, anything stupid they do. When someone in power makes a poor decision, EVERYONE under their authority suffers the consequences. Regardless of whether they “liked,” voted, or condoned that decision.
My point, in a roundabout way, is this. Suffering does not only choose or afflict the guilty (those who voted for or caused it), it comes for us all. As I hinted at, in the last few elections, I have not voted for either major party candidate for President, and yet, the decisions of those men have had a profound affect on my life, especially my social media feeds. I vote not, and yet, I suffer along with the rest of you.
In the book of Job, an ancient epic poem, the protagonist has been afflicted with many horrible tragedies. His children have all been killed in a sudden storm. His house has been destroyed. His livestock and livelihood have been taken from him by his enemies. He is covered from head to toe by sores, from which the only relief is to scrape himself with a piece of dirty, broken pottery left in the remains of his crumbled life. His wife has told him he would be better off dead, and he has poured out a lament to God, cursing the day of his birth. In short, he wishes he had never existed, and that he now could experience the sweet relief of death. It’s pretty dark and heavy stuff.
Never fear though, his friends have arrived to save the day. Three of them in fact – with names that carry power and prestige. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are here to do what friends do. Things start off pretty well. The men arrive, they weep and then wail, they pour ashes on their heads (which meant something to them), and then they just sit in silence for 7 full days, in a beautiful show of support for their friend.
However, things take a turn for the worst when Eliphaz opens his mouth.
Job 4:2–6 (ESV) – “If one ventures a word with you, will you be impatient? Yet who can keep from speaking? Behold, you have instructed many, and you have strengthened the weak hands.Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?
For those of you who don’t speak ancient Hebrew poetry, let me translate. Eliphaz basically says, “Job, you’re a great dude, and you’ve helped a lot of people, but…if you’re suffering, it’s because of something you did. Like you seem pretty impatient right now. You aren’t fearing God above everything else, and that’s why you suffer presently. If you were innocent in the eyes of God, things would be going better for you.”
Aside from being plain rude, there’s one other problem with Eliphaz’s statements – they’re just not true. The author of the book makes it clear that Job is the most righteous man in the land, and that he has the favor of God. He’s suffering for a lot of reasons, many very theologically complex, but none of them are because of something Job himself has done. Job is innocent in the eyes of God, and others, and yet – he still suffers.
Why do I bring this up? Let me tell you. Suffering stinks. Suffering when it’s not your fault is even worse. You could spend your whole life trying to control and perfect every area and situation – and still suffering will pay you a visit. Life isn’t fair. I have found and experienced in my short life, that when we make peace with that truth, and accept it – we face suffering with more character and perseverance. We have a different mindset and make lemonade out of our lemons, instead of rotten lemon soup. Joy and contentment in the face of suffering are possible, and go a long way to reaching a lost world with the message of a God who loves them and wants to give them hope.
Jesus’ brother James, who probably learned it from a smart guy, said it this way;
James 1:2-4 (ESV) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Something good comes from suffering. Even the kind that’s not our fault. Seems like something that would be good for us to remind ourselves, especially when life’s not playing fair.
I can’t tell you who I’ll vote for in 2020, nor which party they’ll belong to, but I can promise you this – whether they win or lose – I’ll be the one suffering. Facebook, Instagram and every news station from here to both coasts will overwhelm me with information I didn’t need or want to know. Then they’ll make or change a policy that costs me money or makes me pay more taxes. THAT I will suffer is a given, HOW I will suffer is up to me. The same is true for you. Don’t let life’s circumstances, not even who’s President, steal or determine your joy. Let your suffering spur you on to learning or doing something great. Maybe even something like running for President. Who knows, you might even get my vote.