The crises we are currently facing were not only predictable but predicted.
- Americans of color have been crying out for centuries about systemic injustices in the economy and criminal justice, yet each week brings another challenging story to work through (this weekend, the killing of Rayshard Brooks).
- Healthcare experts have been sounding the alarm about the nation’s vulnerability to a COVID-19-like disease for years. In 2017, then-director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tom Frieden told the Washington Post that such fears “kept him up at night.”
- While the economic fall-out from the pandemic is unusually devastating, we have experienced a growing economy for eleven years, which is an all-time record . . . And a reversal of some sort was inevitable.
There will be no going back to the old normal; the key question in the crises is, how can you choose to participate in the redemption story God has planned for your life and for our country?
There is little doubt about the fact that we are (almost to a person) falling into a deep despair about these adversities, collectively and individually. If we can understand how to react to adversity in our own personal lives, we can get a clearer vision for the opportunities ahead of us together as a nation.
Our natural reaction to adversity is healthy. We feel pain, disappointment, confusion and frustration. You can see these all around us. People are reeling from the reversal of their economic fortunes. They feel the ground shifting under their career paths. And many white Americans are being forced to re-examine their presuppositions about how the world works.
Our confusion and disorientation is only human. What we do next is what matters. As Austrian neurologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl writes in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
We have a choice. We can sit in our current feelings, and let the fear, hostility and confusion define our identity. Or we can rise up, elevate our perspective and meet our current challenges with hope, courage and resolve.
In order for us to do that, we must see our lives as the redemption stories that they are. God has put you on this earth to overcome the challenges he has set before you (including the ones we face today), and to redeem and be redeemed by them.
“Much of what we hear today about courage is inflated and empty rhetoric that camouflages personal fears about one’s likability, ratings and ability to maintain a level of comfort and status,” writes Rising Strong author Brené Brown. “We need more people who are willing to demonstrate what it looks like to risk and endure failure, disappointment and regret — people willing to feel their own hurt instead of working it out on other people, people willing to own their stories, live their values and keep showing up.”
How I think about and respond to adversity affects you — and how you think about and respond to adversity affects me. When you or I navigate difficult things with authenticity and hope, it can have a positive impact on more than just our individual lives. Your redemption story can change how I view my story . . . If enough of us perceive life through a redemptive lens, the larger challenges of society and the world can come into more meaningful focus.
Many of us have moved past denial of issues like racial injustice, political corruption and health warnings. We’ve accepted that we’ve got a problem. Acceptance says this adversity is our reality. Acceptance says all we can do is stew in our pain, paranoia and division. Acceptance is a good beginning. But it is not enough.
We need to evolve from acceptance to action. Action is the fire that refines adversity into justice, transformation and, ultimately, a better future. History has plenty of examples. Think about Joan of Arc. Nelson Mandela. Gandhi. Think about Rosa Parks, a modern master of redeeming adversity.
When asked if she ever grew weary standing for civil rights, Parks said, “No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” She took this thought a bit further when she said, “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
This is a revolutionary model. Her courage made something great of the challenges of her moment, and she turned the whole world upside down.
If you’ve ever wondered how you would act during history’s most pivotal moments, whatever you’re doing right now is the answer. So what do you want the history books to say about how America faced this moment? And what actions are you willing to take to make sure that they do?
The future God has in store for us awaits if we turn the crises we face into our own personal and collective redemption story.
If you like what you are reading check out American Awakening: Eight Principles to Restore The Soul of America and listen to the American Awakening Podcast, now playing on the Relevant Podcast Network.