Bad news seems to be all too prevalent today. Some of the news is tragic (innocent people killed watching a parade on July 4 in Highland Park, Illinois); some of it is inconvenient (supply chains disrupted, items back-ordered and projects delayed); some is draining and depleting (high gas prices, increases in inflation, and the acknowledgment that we are in a recession).
Combined with the protests over Supreme Court decisions, the social unrest and the hot temperatures, it feels like our nation is a pressure cooker — about ready to explode.
Last week, a friend told me that, as a nation, we seem to be in turmoil — much as we were in the 1970s: hot, mad, ready to explode at any time.
Last night, I saw a video on Instagram. The recording date was not clear, but it showed a woman in a fast-food restaurant tearing up items and throwing them because the restaurant had run out of chicken nuggets. Bystanders mostly joined in or walked away. It appeared as if this behavior was not unexpected. It is a sad situation for our nation that we have citizens who act this way. Entitled, angry, explosive.
Recently, I listened to a course on the MessengerX platform titled “The Wilderness.” MessengerX is an online platform of Messenger International, founded in 1990 by John and Lisa Bevere. According to their website, they exist “to develop uncompromising followers of Christ who transform their world.” The course, led by John Bevere, focuses on the purpose, process and potential results of living through a wilderness period. Think of Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years before coming into the promised land, of the 40 days and nights of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, or of Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery and put into prison before being released and put in charge of storing grain, which protected the population during a subsequent famine.
Wildernesses are hard times and trials that lead to self-discovery, humility, purification and growth. It’s these hard times that set us up to ensure that we are ready for the future. Bevere talks about how complaining can extend a wilderness period. When we complain, it’s as if we are saying to God, “If I were in charge, I would do this a different way.” It reveals our headstrong and uncompromising side, rather than our ability to grow, learn and adapt, and relinquish control to God.
Nations too can go through wilderness times. Just look at the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering in the desert. It seems that, as a nation, we are going through a wilderness time. We seem to be focusing on engaging in divisive issues and complaints rather than expressing gratitude for what we have and how far we have come in fewer than 250 years. The complaints are unending, as if we are a nation of spoiled, rebellious children rather than one of constructive, concerned citizens.
What do we do to end the wilderness? We must quit complaining, quit blaming and be grateful that we are living in the freest, most prosperous nation in the world. This might not be easy, but we were not created for easy; we were created for effort.
Our citizens should recognize their responsibilities as well as their rights and freedoms. As President John F. Kennedy so eloquently said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” What can we do for our country? We can work hard, build up our communities, treat one another with respect and leave places a bit better than they were when we began.
We can reach out and partner with others on projects that we can agree on, even if those projects contain elements about which we disagree. We can focus on the positives while working on the negatives.
But no country, no relationship, and no person can endure perpetual denigration and disgust and remain strong. These hard times are refining times, times for us to become stronger, harder, and surer of who we are and who we want to be as a nation.
We are called first to worship God and then to love one another. We are not called to love only those with whom we agree, or to love only those whose beliefs mirror our own. Instead, we are called to love everyone.
We are not called to judge; that is God’s role. We are called only to love. It’s this love for one another that can help us with the Refining of America — by reaching out to those we disagree with and loving them regardless.