Consider this a PSA. The election season is ending, and it’s not going to be a smooth transition. I’m not talking about a potential transfer of power, I’m talking about the spiritual detoxification that will be necessary if we are to faithfully move on from an election season that has felt like a psychedelic trip.
I’ve personally never experienced such a drug-induced episode, but I imagine it to feel something like the past twelve months. Dizzying, distorted and disorienting. Throw in a global pandemic and a heavy dose of racial reckoning, and this year has read like a lurid dystopian novel. One where all the survivors are forced to elect a leader from two acutely complicated characters who both claim to be the cure-all.
If politics is a drug, election week is the nearly unavoidable bender we all hate to love. It’s toxic, but we can’t say no. It’s our final fix at the end of a long pursuit of the ultimate ideological high. The fruitless arguments, the sarcastic memes, the vitriol. All so toxic, but we couldn’t say no.
Our indignation at opposition and the euphoria of eloquently stating our case could easily be classified as worldview stimulants—borderline hallucinogens at times.
But what goes up must come down.
While I don’t anticipate waking up to a peaceful civic discourse the morning after the election, things are bound to be different once a winner is declared. The climate will change, emotions will shift, and a new season of delirium will begin.
Regardless of who is elected president, we all need to be prepared to overcome the withdrawal symptoms of this narcotic election season. The post-election fear, fatigue, and fury that will try to overwhelm and control us. But none of these after effects will produce the wisdom or righteousness we will need to faithfully participate in God’s redemptive plan for the future.
But what are we to do?
How can we avoid these pitfalls and remain faithful to God without shirking our civic responsibility in the process?
Should we avoid political engagement altogether? Find something else to occupy our headspace? Start seeing a therapist and focus on recovering from the trauma of it all?
All of these things might need to happen at some point. You can talk that through with your therapist (winking, but very serious). Everyone’s detox experience will be different. But one thing it will require of us all is intentionality.
We won’t overcome our post-election wooziness by accident. There are some things we will need to do on purpose.
Here are three post-election symptoms, and ways we can overcome them as the election season high comes down.
Fear says: “This is a nightmare and our country is doomed!” or, “The person I voted for won, but I still feel anxious about the future.”
God says: “Don’t worry, I’m right here with you.”
Fear is a fire fueled by lies. A fire only extinguished by the presence of Truth. That is to say, the presence of God himself.
If we allow them to, our emotions can muffle the sound of God’s most incessant promise, “I am with you always.” Like a perfectly broken record, this refrain repeats itself all over the Bible.
When God called Joshua to lead his people into the promised land, he said, “Don’t be afraid, I am with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Peter walked on water while he was looking at Jesus, but the second he turned his attention elsewhere he became afraid and began to sink (Matthew 14:22-23).
Psalm 23 reminds us that even at life’s most harrowing moments, we ought not be afraid because God is close beside us (Psalm 23:4).
No election result can comfort our panicky hearts or relieve our soul-deep anxieties. When we are tempted to withdraw into our fears, God’s presence is the only legitimate antidote.
Fatigue says: “We’re in for a long four years, I’m already so exhausted!” or, “The person I voted for won, but there is still so much work to do.”
God says: “I will satisfy your soul.”
When we’re feeling drained, it’s important to distinguish between tiredness and emptiness. Do I need a nap or do I need nourishment for my soul? (I wrote a spoken word about this, you can watch it here.)
In Jeremiah 31:25, God promises that he will satisfy our weary souls. This implies that weariness is a not symptom of physical exhaustion, but of spiritual dissatisfaction. Fatigue is often brought on by a lack of fulfillment. Something is missing that all the naps in the world can’t provide.
When our souls are dissatisfied, it’s possible to be well-rested and weary at the same time.
Politics is significant, but it cannot satisfy your soul. So don’t be surprised if this election season leaves you feeling worn out. But don’t be surprised either when God’s promise to satisfy you proves itself to be true.
When you are empty and unsatisfied, pay attention to his presence. Let the truth of his word wash over you. And rest in “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19).
What fury says: “People are so ignorant and foolish, I hope they all feel the pain of this presidency!” or, “The person I voted for won, and everyone who didn’t vote for him needs to shut up and go away!”
What God says: “Human anger is counterproductive.”
When we are angry it’s because we want things to be different. We want things to be better. But anger actually hamstrings those desires—it can only make things worse.
Our emotions trick us into believing that anger is what will right the wrongs we see around us. But James 1:20 points out that “human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires”. Anger makes things more wrong, but righteousness makes things right.
That’s why Jesus didn’t say a word as he was tortured and crucified. His anger wouldn’t have produced what was necessary to right all of humanity’s wrongs. Only his righteousness could do that.
This is the “two wrongs don’t make a right” principle that we learned as temperamental children. And it applies perfectly to the temptation of post-election fury.
When we feel that the “wrong” person won, what’s the right way to respond?
Anger might feel justified—even satisfying—in the moment. But right living is what will lead us into the future God desires.
This means leading with our ears and holding our tongues when it’s hard. It means loving our neighbor who voted differently. It means rejoicing in hope even when the world is burning. It means patience, and kindness, and gentleness, and self-control.
It means rolling up our sleeves and working to address the problems that our vote was never going to solve anyway.
Anger produces nothing good, but righteousness is the stuff of redemption. And I think we can all agree that America can use a little bit of that right now.
The Bottom Line
Prioritize your mental peace, your spiritual rest, and your emotional health. Don’t let the withdrawal symptoms of this toxic election season keep you fearful, fatigued, or infuriated. Stay aware of God’s presence, let him satisfy your soul, and respond to wrongs by living the right way.
There are, of course, other withdrawal symptoms that are ready to come for us after the election. Apathy, confusion, pride, and the like. But you can be sure that for every one of them, God has already given us the cure. And it’s nothing to do with politics.