I’m just going to say it up front: I can’t stand Donald Trump. And I don’t think any Christian anywhere in the country should support him with a vote. His misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, violent, war-crime peppered rhetoric should have put voting for Trump beyond the pale of any Christian. Thankfully, most evangelicals who faithfully attend their local church share my opinions, so I’m not going to spend much time trying to convince you that Trump has disqualified himself from the Christian’s vote. But, if you’re still unsure or you happen to worship in a place that has you thinking Donald Trump’s the best man for the job, check out this article from Russell Moore and another by Michael Horton. If those guys can’t convince you, then neither can I.
Instead, I want to talk about the atmosphere of worry that seems to be surrounding Trump’s campaign. Some of the worry is manufactured by the campaign itself as a way to boost poll numbers. He latches on to the chaos of the world to cultivate his reputation as the savior we’ve always been waiting for. He builds on the worry and encourages people toward the worry so that they will turn to him and elect him as President, Savior of the United States.
But there is another layer of worry that has been created by those who are warning against a Trump presidency. For very good reasons, they have pointed out the character flaws, policy shortcomings, and potential calamities that would accompany such a presidency. But the constant anti-Trump hammering, while important, has created an unhealthy and even sinful atmosphere of worry to which I have fallen prey. I’ve worried about the military power of the United States at the beck and call of a man who has advocated targeting women and children. I worry about my daughters growing up in an America run like a business by a man who has shown complete disregard for Latinos and women. I worry about the health of an American church that has seen many of its self-identified members throw their support behind Trump.
And it’s a sin*.
It’s a sin that I tend to downplay because it’s “not as bad” as many of the other sins in my life. But if I am called to put to death sin in all its manifestations, then I can’t leave worry at the periphery. It must be attacked too. Thankfully, Scripture attacks my worrying, my anxious-ness and re-orients me in a more peaceful direction.
One of the many letters Paul wrote from prison was to a church in Philippi who had endured suffering on account of their witness to Christ. One of his goals was to encourage them in their faithfulness amidst a Roman culture at odds with the church and to build them up as they faced the very real possibility of suffering again in the future. He did not want the church to become stuck in worry and be rendered ineffective for the Gospel. He confronts this worrying head on toward the end of his letter.
“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:5-7, ESV)
The command is explicit: Do not be anxious (do not worry) about anything. Anything. Including the prospect of a Trump presidency. Paul is commanding the Philippians, and also you and me, to not worry. Why?
Because the Lord is at hand. What does this mean? Paul is using this phrase in two different ways. First, don’t be anxious because your future is already secure. Jesus is returning! The Lord is at hand! This is of immense comfort to those who are worrying about the circumstances around them. Paul encourages me not to worry because Jesus is a promise-keeping Lord who will return in victory. In the end, it doesn’t matter who becomes President because Jesus is Lord and the Lord is at hand!
Secondly, Paul uses this phrase to point us back to the Psalms, perhaps Psalm 145:18 which boasts that “the Lord is near to all who call on him”. Now, the phrase “the Lord is at hand” can also be translated “The Lord is near” which makes the comparison to Psalm 145 all the more clear. Yes, you are unsure of your immediate future. Yes, bad things may be coming your way. But the Lord is near to all who call on him. He is here and he is listening to the cries of his people. God’s Word comforts me here by showing me that I don’t need to worry about a Trump presidency because the Lord is near me when I call on him for help.
So, I’m told not to worry about anything because the Lord is at hand. Timeless truth: the Lord is at hand. What should I do about it? Don’t worry about anything. What should I do in place of the worrying?
Bring my requests to the Lord in prayer.
Paul encourages the Philippians to turn from their worry toward Christ in prayer. They are to bring their requests to the Lord. And so it is very appropriate to pray that Donald Trump does not become President. That sounds harsh, sure, but God actually commands me to come to him with my requests! And if I’m worried about a Donald Trump presidency, then I need to come to the Lord and pray that such a thing doesn’t come to pass.
But the Trumps poll numbers aren’t where the Spirit’s work in my heart needs to take place. Yes, I am praying that Donald Trump never takes the oath of office. But more than that, I’m praying for my need (my supplication) which is to be transformed into the image of Christ more and more (Eph. 2:10). My prayer is not just that Trump wouldn’t become President but that I would stop worrying about it in the first place! I need to let that worry go and instead cling to the Lord who is at hand! I need to take my eyes off the presidency and place them back on the King.
Truth: The Lord is at hand. What should I do about it? Don’t worry about anything. What should I do instead? Bring my requests to the Lord in prayer. And what will happen when I do this?
The peace of God which is beyond understanding will wash over me and bring me into deeper communion with God. That’s the promise. The promise is that if we give up our worrying about the Trump presidency and instead come to the Lord in prayer with our requests, God will answer by bringing us peace. Note, he doesn’t promise to obey our requests as if he were Aladdin’s genie. His ways are beyond our ways and every king or president that has come to power only does so because God allows it (Rom 13:1). But he does promise us peace in the midst of the storm, a peace that is beyond all understanding. It is a peace that does not remove us from danger but allows us to endure it. It is a peace that does not give us rose-colored glasses, but instead allows us to see the world as it is without fear, but in the hope that the Lord is at hand.
Now there are some things that “not worrying” doesn’t look like. I’m going to talk about those things later this week. But for now, I’m going to put this into practice every time I begin to worry about a Trump and pray that God would give me peace in the midst of this election storm.
* I want to make it clear that I’m not talking about the medical condition we call “anxiety”. That is a different issue altogether. The worrying or anxiety here is what Paul talks about in the upcoming passage. If you do have anxiety, there are ways to fight it that are beyond the scope of this article. Check out the helpful resources here.