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When the Foundations Are Being Destroyed

An Axios-Ipsos poll this week found that 79% of people surveyed say that America is falling apart, a view shared by a fairly equal number of Democrats and Republicans. According to Mike Allen at Axios, this pessimism “reflects the collision of crises besetting the country – the backdrop of a pandemic, recession, decoupling of red/blue America, and racial injustice + the immediacy of the Capitol insurrection, followed by Impeachment II.”

This image of “America falling apart” reminded me of Psalm 11:3, where David wrote, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” In the midst of a pandemic, political polarization, economic uncertainty, and a raging culture war, sometimes I find myself among the 79% watching a great country crumble. The foundations of society – trust in one another, confidence in the future, and general agreement about fundamental moral truths – these are cracking beneath our feet. What can we do?

The Psalms help us here, and it’s remarkable how well they have aged.

David lived in a time of political turmoil such as ours. His own son Absalom led a successful coup against him, driving David from his own capital and into fugitive status in the wilderness. Citizens were taking sides, truth was sacrificed in the pursuit of power, and a civil war was brewing. David wrote of that experience in Psalm 55.

Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words,
for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
malice and abuse are within it.
Destructive forces are at work in the city;
threats and lies never leave its streets. (Psalm 55:9-11)

Sadly, those words could be written about our own capital these days. So, what can we do in the midst of political and social upheaval? David answers in the same psalm,

 Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22)

Place your trust in the LORD and stand firmly on the solid ground of His reality. If the foundation of your life is the revealed truth of God, your footing is secure. Reality always wins.

But to answer David’s question, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”, I’d like to suggest four practical action steps.

1. Decrease your media consumption.

The role of the media is to inform, but they also have to make a profit doing it. Startling headlines, striking images, and shocking video – these are meant to “make you look” (and sell advertising). Everyone likes a little excitement, to feel like they are a part of a real Hollywood blockbuster, and the media is happy to oblige the fantasy with dramatic effect. Don’t bite the click bait, don’t feed your appetite for fear porn. We stopped watching the evening news sometime back in July, and our lives are better for it.

2. Strengthen your own foundations.

Honestly, there’s not much that you can do to change the broader culture in the short term, but you can influence your own culture now. The smallest and most powerful unit of culture is the family. The people you will influence the most are the ones you spend the most time with – your children, grandchildren, family and friends. Don’t squander precious time trying to influence strangers on the internet when precious loved ones in your life need to hear you speak truth and embody faith.

3. Resist the urge to run.

In the same psalm where David describes crumbling societal foundations he begins with a statement and a rhetorical question. “In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, ‘Flee like a bird to your mountain?’”(11:3). It’s tempting in times like this to retreat to places of cultural isolation, embrace a fortress mentality, and avoid the reality of crumbling institutions. Instead of running away, David takes refuge in the truth of God, and declares to his trembling community, “the LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven” (11:4). More than ever before, we must be bold in speaking truth in the public square. There is a God. He is good and just. His word is true.

4. Remember that God is on the throne.

When a person abandons faith in God, something else will always fill the vacuum. For many people these days, the god that has rushed into the void is the god of politics. Rather than seeking God’s eternal wisdom to fix things, we turn to government, believing falsely that there is a political solution to every problem. Christians should not be deceived by this so-called wisdom. When the problems are spiritual, political solutions alone will not work.

As the world moves beneath our feet, we stand firmly on the truth of God. Our neighbors need to see that we aren’t shaking. They need to see that we aren’t afraid of a pandemic, of political upheaval, or even the possibility that America will fall apart all around us. We cast our burdens on the LORD who sustains us, and we will not be moved. We know this because God himself entered human history and laid a foundation upon which we stand.

For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (I Peter 2:6)

Jesus is our sure foundation, the cornerstone on which the government of God rests. We who have fled to take hold of this hope offered to us are greatly encouraged.

(From Used with permission. )

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