Keeping Perspective in Complicated Times
"Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all.”
-Proverbs 3:5 (MSG)
A swirl of voices are shouting into our culture. They’re vying for our attention, demanding we listen and react. News outlets, social media, and political leaders want us to be outraged, overwhelmed, angry, and frightened. They demand unwavering, clear allegiance. Complexity and nuance are shouted down by quick headlines.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure lately, its because there are many who want you to feel that way. When you are frozen in place, you're a captive audience.
When I was in my twenties, I was great at being right. As a freshly minted adult, I was comforted by the assurance that came with certainty. I confidently shared my opinion loud and proud. As I’ve gained experience and years, I’m learning that my point of view is frustratingly narrow. I don’t know what I don’t know. What was once as black and white as a Sharpie-lined drawing is now an opaque watercolor. I’ve quieted down a bit.
My twenty-something self would have accused my current self as being passive. Undefined. A cop-out. In response, my present self would thank that twenty-year-old for her passion, lean in to listen, then love her with the understanding that her world will become hazier with every conflicting, blurry encounter she experiences. She will meet people capable of enormous good who will hurt her deeply. She will meet obnoxious, bullying folks who will teach her essential truths. She will hear the Gospel from those who live as Pharisees. She will meet atheists who behave more like Christians than many church-goers. She will begin to see that complex problems are not solved with sweeping generalizations. And that wisdom is cultivated in humility.
A good friend said, "thinking people are always contradictory." The more times I go around the sun, the more I realize how true this is. Life and people are complicated. Heroes have flaws. Criminals have virtues. It’s really frustrating for those of us who want the world to be simple. But if life was clear enough for us to manage on our own, we would be left unaware of how much we need a Savior.
With all the noise clamoring around us, can I invite you to turn your attention in a different direction? Not to the right and left or back and forth. It’s time to look up. The Lord--sovereign and good--is over all of this present confusion. He is inviting us to live in reliance on Him, in the reflection of His Spirit.
Where there is hatred, He is offering love.
Where there is despair, He is offering joy.
Where there is unrest, He invites peace.
Where there is intolerance, He invites patience.
Where there is cruelty, He invites kindness.
Where there is corruption, goodness.
Where there is doubt, faithfulness.
Where there is violence, gentleness.
Where there is fury, He offers self-control.
Don’t give in to the pressure to be uncomplicated. You don’t need to be outraged to be compassionate. You don’t need to rely on broad declarations or incendiary 144-character tweets to be defined. People are too inconsistent for that. Life is too variegated. You decrease the glory of God's creation by trying to put it all in tiny little boxes. The self-comfort of polarizing generalizations are temporary when compared to the everlasting, immovable peace of the Lord. You don’t need to have a clear position for every problem the world presents.
Instead, you can simply put one foot in front of the other. You can choose the humility that comes from still needing to learn things. You can take things one moment, one person, one circumstance at a time. Your inconsistency could be your greatest gift. Sometimes you will appear weak and at other times, incredibly brave. It is enough to “Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” This could look very different with every encounter you have. We honor one another’s humanity by holding onto entangled experiences of the positive and adverse. We honor God by relying on Him to lead us through them.
May today’s chaos develop your complexity. May overwhelming confusion lead to overwhelming solace in the Lord. May your frozen feet learn to take small steps of humility. And for every easy answer, may you discover the wisdom that comes from not knowing everything.