A Post-Election Letter to Young Evangelicals: Yes, Jesus Is Sovereign–But Suffering Matters

Dear God-loving young evangelical,

I want you to know something: I hugely appreciate your confidence in God.  It is deeply heartening to me to see that you are showing firm confidence in the Lord in the wake of the defeat of the pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-religious liberty presidential ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.  The dust is settling one week after this precipitous defeat.  How appropriate and right that you would go to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and providence for comfort in these hard days.  So you know, I have gone there with you, and must continue going to the secret place of God’s power and majesty.

We are keenly reminded in these days of what Luther taught in his day: that we so often look for God in the world of glory, yet find him in the cross of crucifixion.

I do have a second point to make here, though.  There is a potential danger, oddly, in our response.  It is this: we could so focus on God’s sovereignty that we lose sight of the hard truth that America has just elected the least pro-life president ever to a second term.  Jesus is on his throne; heaven is not worried by earthly developments.  Yet human suffering is real.  It will substantially increase, I fear, in our days, and in days to come.  More babies will be killed, and more funding will go to Planned Parenthood.  Our president will not, barring a miracle, work to overturn Roe v. Wade.  Traditional marriage will continue to suffer major attacks, and the movement will likely pick up steam with our pro-homosexual marriage president in place.  Religious liberty, already under unprecedented assault from a man who is, quixotically, religious, will likely continue to wane.

In these and many other ways, we see that we have entered a deeply sobering cultural and societal moment.  America has long been philosophically hostile to the Christian and Protestant worldview.  Now, I fear, it is institutionally hostile to our worldview.

Does any of the foregoing obviate the glorious truth that God is guiding history to its end (see, um, all of Revelation)?  Does not the Lord, in the elegant words of the old King James, turn the king’s heart wherever he wishes (Prov. 21:1)?  Yes he does.  But will suffering increase in America in coming days?  It very well may.  Will Christians find themselves under increasing pressure?  I think so.  Might we lose some of our cherished liberties, which have allowed evangelical churches to function in sum as a missions powerhouse?  It would not surprise me.

God is sovereign, my friends.  Absolutely and totally.  But even as Jeremiah wept for Israel, so we weep for what America–historically a Protestant-influenced nation, a carefully chosen characterization–is becoming.  This is not wrong.  It is not falling captive to politics.  It is not losing sight of the spheric control of the Trinitarian God.  It is, I think, driven by a love for the image of God, mankind, and by a clear-eyed appraisal of real human suffering.  Babies will continue to squirm in the womb, desperately trying to evade their death; children will grow up in unbiblical and disordered homes that view homosexuality as good and right; churches and institutions will feel pressure both from a growing governmental tab and the loss of religious liberty.

This is human suffering.  It did not begin with the 2012 presidential election.  It began with the lack of Adam’s protection of Eve, and the eating of forbidden fruit.  We know sin is real and that it brings suffering.  It always will, until Christ returns and remakes this cursed place.

Yet we are aware, from a study of human history, that suffering can wax and wane.  Persecution is not a good.  The faith that persecution strengthens is good (1 Pet 4; James 1).  I implore you: do not pass on the mistruth that persecution itself is good.  It is not.  But what God does in us through trials is indeed good.  In some cases God uses persecution to build the church; see what’s happening in China at present, or the first four centuries of church history.  In other cases persecution is devastating for the church; see North Africa after the rise of Islam, post-Calvin France, and many places in contemporary Europe.  In other words, persecution can bring good, but it also can be terrible for God’s people.  Have we not read our Old Testament prophets?

This is in no way to shake our faith in our sovereign, all-powerful God.  It is, though, to acknowledge the hard and tragic dimension of life in this fallen world.  We place all our faith in Christ and his final redemption.  Yet we weep for those who suffer.  It is not wrong to experience both these realities.  This is, in actual fact, what it means to be a Christian in a sin-cursed sphere.

So: trust God.  Celebrate the advancing kingdom of God.  Find solace and joy in the gospel of Christ.  But also: weep for those who suffer here.  Mourn what is lost.  Pray like the wind, work while there still is time, ask the Spirit to help you realize all the power of God that is inside you.

In the darkness, strike a light, and plunge back into the valley of the shadow of death, knowing that soon this darkness will pass away, and we will shine like the sun.

Your friend,