Need Hope and Encouragement This Election Day? Try Investing in Your Community

By Anika Smith Published on November 8, 2016

This election day is hard on our souls, whether we’re anticipating defeat or fighting schadenfreude. A few things to remember, regardless of the outcome at the polls:

  1. The presidential election isn’t the only thing happening today
  2. There is more to life than politics
  3. God is on His throne

The Most Important Thing You Do Today Will Not Be Voting in the Presidential Election

It’s tempting to think that who you vote for as president is the most important decision of your life, akin to Neville Chamberlain getting ready to make a deal with Hitler, or FDR deciding it was worth working with Stalin to stop the Nazis. Forgive me, but you and I are not likely ever to bear that level of responsibility — not on a national level, at any rate. But given the outlandish things said by everyone and their mother these days, the emotional significance attached to voting for president can feel that heavy.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t vote — but don’t let anyone tell you that your vote for president is the most important decision you’ll make today. As a Republican who has always lived as a red dot surrounded by deep seas of blue Democrats, I have had the satisfaction of voting for the candidates I believed in, regardless of whether it made any difference. It may feel different to those in swing states, but the overall effect is still a tiny drop in a very large bucket.

You know where your vote makes a difference? On the state and (especially) local levels. There are good people whose races get decided by much smaller margins. What’s more, there are many ballot initiatives that affect the rights of churches, families, individuals and businesses this year. This is where your vote counts. (And why you should vote in more than just the presidential elections.)

I have a good friend who has always voted for third party candidates, “wasting” his presidential votes, yet he is one of the most politically effective people I’ve seen on the local level: he shows up to town council meetings, volunteers at community events and organizes people to show up for each other in our neighborhood. His effect on our tiny town of 3,000 is substantial — and in small, mundane ways, it’s knitting our community together.

Vote as you will, but don’t think that your vote is the best way to help your community. It is far more important to show up at your local community night out, bring a casserole to a family in crisis, introduce your neighbors, and vote downballot.

Politics Isn’t Everything, Thank God

Praise God that this election cycle is over soon enough. Like death and taxes, the knowledge that all administrations will end can help. But be careful what you say around your neighbors — not for fear of being PC, but out of courtesy and humility.

It is a virtue in our age of media silos and echo chambers to know your neighbors and cultivate friendships based on chance and geography: the people around you at work, in the next pew from you at church or mass, the many immortal souls with whom you interact every day. These relationships are mainly accidental: we may, living in a land rich with religious freedom, be able to choose from among many sound, theologically orthodox churches to attend and belong to, but we will never be able to choose who worships there with us.

I love the church because, like my biological family, they are people I am bound to by the will of God, not by my own preference.

I love the church because, like my biological family, they are people I am bound to by the will of God, not by my own preference. For every BFF you make in the church, there’s someone who consistently fails to understand where you’re coming from — and we are committed to loving and serving both, regardless.

Remember in The Screwtape Letters, when the demon Screwtape advises his nephew to impress “the patient” with how ugly or silly or annoying the people kneeling next to him in his parish were — with contempt for them?

When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours… It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains. You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy’s side. No matter. Your patient, thanks to Our Father Below, is a fool. Provided that any of those neighbours sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous.

The temptation is to look at the person next to you and shake your head in derision at the way they are voting or who they support. I disagree strongly with many of my friends this election season, primarily on whether either candidate can be trusted and on the priority of protecting human life in the womb. I did not choose these friends but rejoice to have them chosen for me in my local church and workplace, and as such I dare not look upon them with contempt in my heart. I need them too much, and the poison of contempt will only fuel my already dangerous spiritual pride.

These friendships are a gift, not only because they are signs of God’s grace and His power — when the only thing you have in common with someone is Jesus, it tells the world Jesus is who He said He was — but also because these friendships are where real conversations about the most important things, such as life and liberty, can be had. In the last year I have had painful conversations about abortion and fruitful conversations about sexuality with some of my closest friends in the church. Let me tell you, having these conversations face-to-face with someone you love is much better than writing a scathing Facebook comment or Tweetstorm.

Of course, this is much easier when both persons are committed to the same Lord. In fact, I believe these conversations are only possible when we look to God — and not any political party or program or person — for our salvation and our ultimate hope.

No matter what happens today, remember that God is on His throne. Psalm 47 reminds us that the same God who “chose our heritage for us” — who gave us to our families and put us in this particular time and place — is the God who rules over the nations. He will see His purposes fulfilled for us, and we can trust Him regardless of what happens in our nation.

And if you’re having a hard time, play this song by Steven Curtis Chapman, and turn it up loud:

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