Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
1 Peter 4:12
A friend and I texted back and forth about the various horrific things happening in our country: about immigration detention centers owned by private prison companies, unaccompanied minors traveling across entire countries to relative safety to meet broken policy and hateful rhetoric, about emboldened white supremacists, and the level of discourse in local politics, a direct result of our chief executive’s influence.
I’m not necessarily mad at Trump, I wrote. This is Trump. This is who he is. I’m really, truly upset with the people who put him in office. Why would they do this to their fellow Americans? To all the people of this world?
“They have no reason to be surprised,” she wrote. “This is exactly who he told us he was.”
It’s not just him, of course, though he is the glaring example. Greed and egotism have run rampant for God knows how long (literally), and he is but the latest example. People die of hunger every day. People live without homes. People are enslaved by other people. None of this is new. None of this exists only in the past. It cannot be a surprise. Indeed, ICE is off the leash, as it were, but deportations and ghastly detention centers and human rights violations in our own country are not new.
So what are we doing?
But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.
1 Peter 4:13-14
I hear verses like this tossed out to the suffering like stale bread. Blessed are you, O Starving One! Bear the suffering, or reach down to those boot straps, and pull yourself on up! And indeed, when we are uncomfortable, the idea that our suffering is not in vain soothes. But what I might ask is whether this discomfort at our political situation could be used as a barometer. Let’s say your life was at an 8 before this election. You know, you’d watch the news and, excepting some drone coverage or the mention of Darfur or Syria or a filibuster, your blood pressure remained the same. Now you can’t handle it. You’ve cried. You’ve gnashed. You’ve taken NPR off your radio presets. (Do other people still have those? Our car is from 1998.)
Or maybe you face losing health coverage. Maybe your job is at stake due to budget cuts– or hell, because retail is taking a hit since everyone is so dang depressed and uncertain. I mean, I hope you’re uncomfortable. This isn’t normal. This isn’t okay.
In fact, discomfort is the very LEAST we can and should be feeling. It doesn’t help, of course, to plant yourself on the couch with a pint of ice cream and cry over the state of the nation (thing I have done), but you CAN share in the suffering of others, and in doing so, lighten the load.
First, look at your time. Are you spending enough of it helping others? There is a LOT to do, and the burden is being borne by the few. Use your time to ensure that the powerful– the lawmakers, the moneymakers– are standing up for what is right. Have you researched your investments? Talked to your alma mater, your employer, your city, about divesting from institutions who perpetuate this state of suffering, like private prisons? If you have time to google “Handmaid’s Tale spoilers” (also a thing I have done) you can do the aforementioned, I promise.
All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.
Take a look at your money. Are you comfortable? Lots of others aren’t. And money doesn’t grow on trees, man. Give it away. Read Acts 2, and give.the.shit.away. I mean, I’m not here to tell you how much or to whom. I don’t know what you need. I don’t know what your obligations are. I just know that there is enough in this world– enough food, enough water, enough shelter– for us all. Spread it out. Enable others to spread it out. Look at your community, and see who does the good work. Help them.
Look at your stuff. Good Lord, I have too much stuff. I need to give it away. I need to stop getting it. I need to walk through the aisles of Target and wonder whether I *really* need another bundle of cheap sweatshop t-shirts or if I should take the $20 and buy Adelante a much-needed case of diapers.
As I’m writing this, I feel apologies and mitigations creep up, “I know this is too much…”, “I mean, you do you…”, “Just do what you feel you can do…” But honestly, we’re past that. Do more than you think you can do. Do. More.
Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:8-11