I deliberately posted this on November 2nd, the day before Election Day. Posting on this day means I have no idea who the winner will be because that isn’t the point. Now, don’t worry, this isn’t a political post; it’s a Christian living post. In the middle of election season, something not often talked about is election anxiety. With elections come hopes, dreams, and desires for your chosen candidate and fears, worries, and anger over the other candidate. Everyone wants to win, and no one wants to lose, but as elections go, someone will get the spot, and the other person will not. I remember elections where I was in despair and depression over the results because of my emotional investment. And that’s the thing about elections: they are not just about the policies, candidates, or parties; they are also about all the emotions we attach to them.
So here are a few suggestions on how you can combat election anxiety:
- Identify the emotions you are feeling. Unnamed feelings can control us in ways we are not aware of. When emotions remain subconscious, they affect us even when we don’t know it, so name them and make them conscious feelings.
- If your candidate loses, grieve. It’s okay to feel bad about a loss. You may be angry; you may feel unheard; you may feel alienated from other citizens. Recognize it for what it is, and allow yourself to feel and process through what you lost. Discover the Christian act of lament to help you through the grief rather than falling into unhealthy modes of dealing with the sorrow. The book Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy is an excellent resource for understanding lament.
- Take a social media fast. Thanks to social media platforms, the world has so much unnecessary drama. While they may expand communication, they can also heighten and exacerbate anxiety and anger. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to step away for a while. When it comes to arguing on social media, there is no end, so take a week or two away. You won’t miss out on anything. The arguments will still be there later. Social media can pour salt on an open wound. What you need first is to heal.
- Identify your idols. If you are feeling overly anxious, what are you anxious about or anxious about losing? When we have excessive worry, it can help us identify what we may be trusting in or longing for more than God. We can make idols even out of good things and good causes, and our heart becomes more attached to them than God, who is the source of all goodness. While there is nothing wrong with caring deeply, despair isn’t where God wants us to live.
- Focus on those around you. Your family, friends, and neighbors are all in your life for a reason, and you can do far more good in their lives than any political candidate who lives far away ever could. The most powerful change happens through relationships, and the most significant effect you can have on this world comes through love, kindness, caring, and listening to those in your immediate life.
- When you are ready, talk to someone you know who voted differently. Talk not to argue, not to debate, but to learn and build a bridge in their lives. What concerns did that have? What hopes do they have? What fears do they have? When you are genuinely curious, it opens the door for others to be curious about you, and that’s when real understanding happens. We are not all that different from each other; what we need more of is to see each other as real people and not just caricatures. When we can build understanding, we can make a difference that brings change.
- Pray. If you have anxiety because of the election, the Bible has a verse for you, “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.” – Philippians 4:6-7
- Trust God. He is the one who is in control. Daniel 2:21 says that he removes kings and sets up kings. God is sovereign, and everything is happening according to his will. It does not take him by surprise. He already knows the outcome. And God knows what he is doing. We may not understand what he is doing, but that’s not what we are called to. We are called to simply trust.
- Advance the heavenly kingdom. Sometimes, we can be so anxious about an election because we feel powerless about what may happen to the country that we live in. Powerlessness often breeds inaction and sluggishness. Instead, realize that God has given his people a mission. You have a cause that is larger than yourself, larger than a country, and even larger than this planet. You can advance the kingdom of God and be busy with eternal change.
So, as election day looms, take stock of your heart. Use the uncertainty you are feeling to assess where your trust, your hopes, your comfort, and your solace really are. Far from apathy of the things of this world, when you are heavenly-minded, you are more earthly good. The future is always uncertain, but the God we serve is never uncertain. So vote, do your part, pray, and let God do the rest.