There is an ancient Chinese curse that goes, "May you live in interesting times." Our times are interesting indeed. We have a President-Elect in the US who sees the world in terms of winners and losers, who is driven by revenge and greed and who has no experience in diplomacy, public service or government. He will be handed executive powers over the world's biggest nuclear arsenal. We have the UK trying to negotiate itself out of the European Union without leverage or any kind of plan, facing an unpayable charge of 60 billion euros for the privilege. We have Italy teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, France in real danger of Marine Le Pen becoming President, the Middle East in melt-down, unprecedented numbers of refugees on the move, and I haven't even touched on perhaps the most frightening problem of all – climate change.
Following the US election, I read a lot of apocalyptic journalism, like this article in the Guardian by George Montbiot, 'The 13 impossible crises that humanity now faces'. I would go on Facebook and follow links to articles and blogs full of despair, anger and fear. I began to spiral into anxiety and depression. I have two little girls, and I wondered if I'd been wrong to bring them into the world. I wanted to do something, anything, to help turn the situation around but I felt powerless in the face of such enormous challenges, and I became paralysed. When people said things like, 'God is sovereign and in control,' it didn't help at all. I'm not a Calvinist. I don't think he's pulling the strings.
But I have pulled out of my nosedive, and I've done it by standing on the solid ground of certainty. These are the truths that have been my comfort in our interesting times:
"Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation," (Romans 8:38-9). There has never been a period of history without suffering, war and upheaval, but even in the valley of the shadow of death, we need fear no evil, because God's love surrounds us.
We may not have power over macro-scale world events, but every day we can make hundreds of choices to do good, love God and serve our neighbour. C S Lewis' Screwtape Letters is an imagined correspondence between a senior devil and a junior in charge of a 'patient' who has come into relationship with God, 'The Enemy.' As war looms, Screwtape advises, "There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human's mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them." There is plenty we can do in our own spheres of influence to bring God's kingdom on earth.
When we choose to lay down our anxieties before God, who sees the beginning from the end, whose mind no one can fathom, before whom dictators and despots appear like ants, we will find inexplicable peace: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.' (Philipians 4:6-7)