A Disappointed Trust is Possible

Another presidential election season has come and gone. Maybe. Sort of. Is it? It’s hard to say (unless you’re a legacy news media outlet). Remember, 2000’s “Hanging Chads” debacle lasted well into December, and it is a physical impossibility that Donald Trump will go gently into that good night. No matter who wins the presidency this time, it looks like the next four years will repeat the same type of public accusations of a “stolen election” that were hurled at George W. Bush for his entire first term—from either side that loses.

But I am a Christian—a pastor, no less. So I am not supposed to care who the president is, right? “Put not your trust in princes, in mortal man who cannot save.” Psalm 146 and all that. If I care, or if I am disappointed by the results at any level, I might be denying God’s power (Romans 13). I might be putting my trust in mortal man and not in Christ. I might be a hypocrite to sing that great Herrnschmidt hymn, “Praise the Almighty” (LSB 797):

Trust not in rules, they are but mortal;

Earth-born they are and soon decay.

Vain are their counsels at life’s last portal;

When the dark grave engulfs its prey.

Since mortals can no help afford,

Place all your trust in Christ our Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia!

Bullocks. Not the hymn or the sentiment, but the suggestion that caring about an election or an earthly ruler’s agenda is somehow exhibiting mistrust in God’s providence. Two things can be true at once, and it is possible to be and remain a faithful follower of Christ and still be bummed out that your candidate lost. In fact, it is possible to be and remain a faithful follower of Christ and still experience a wide range of emotions throughout your lifetime.

Consider a teenage girl who gets dumped by her first love. She curls up with a blanket, her broken heart pulsing to the beat of Adele (or whatever kids these days listen to) as the tears flow freely. You wouldn’t barge in, accuse her of not loving God above all things, and remind her of Psalm 63, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.”

How about a widow who just lost her husband of sixty years? She stands at the fresh grave and wonders about a daily routine that will never be the same. Only a psycho would sidle up to her and say, “You know, Paul says in 1 Corinthians that if your husband dies you’re free to marry anyone you wish.”

Maybe your neighbor is struggling financially. He has a house full of hungry mouths, and he was just laid off from work because his state’s governor gave a unilateral “stay at home” order. Are you going to remind him of Jesus’ sermon and tell him to “consider the lilies of the field”?

There is a line to all of this. Grief, heartbreak, and anxiety can get out of hand and pull you away from the cross. Timing is everything, and the application of law and gospel to the people of God is more unending than election lawsuits. But you ought not make a law out of a statement that is supposed to elicit faith and trust in God. “Do not worry,” Jesus said, in kind assurance that your heavenly Father cares for you. “Put not your trust in princes,” the Psalmist said, sandwiched between effusive praise to the Almighty who saves us.

Can you be so concerned with the things of this world that you cease to put your trust in the Almighty? Absolutely. But where that line is, how that concern is manifested, and what your trust actually looks like is a matter than calls for the wisdom of experience.

Besides, with the Lord a four-year presidential term is like a day (Psalm 90).