By James M. Wall
The early morning after Donald Trump’s shocking upset election victory, the first thought that came to my mind was Job’s dark lament: “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me”. KJV Job 3:25.
My mother seared that verse into my consciousness the moment she quoted it, when my wife and I traveled 45 sad miles to tell my mother of the unexpected death of her son, who was also my oldest brother.
Job’s lament was her immediate reaction, followed by her quoting to me another line from Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him”.
When I recall that exchange that took place in my childhood home in Monroe, Georgia, it is a memory in a different context, consistent with the distress I felt in response to Trump’s victory.
It is a response not shared by more than half of those voters who gave Donald Trump the presidency.
Stunned by that final vote, and yet bolstered by the memory of my mother’s testimony of faith in the midst of her darkness, I turned to John Wesley’s Notes.
This is how Methodism’s founder understood Job’s lament.:
3:25 Feared – Even in the time of my prosperity, I was full of fears, considering the variety of God’s providences, the changeableness of this vain world, God’s justice, and the sinfulness of all mankind. And these fears of mine, were not in vain, but are justified by my present calamities.
“Justified” had a special meaning for Wesley. Each faith tradition has its own way of understanding a believer’s trust in God. In the Methodist tradition:
The justifying dimension of “God’s grace is a gift. God’s grace alone brings us into relationship with God. There are no hoops through which we have to jump in order to please God and to be loved by God. God has acted in Jesus Christ. We need only to respond in faith.
It was her belief, as my mother testified those decades ago, that our “present calamities” will not be permanent. For her, out of darkness comes hope.
Donald Trump’s political victory was a defeat of the political establishment of both political parties which have grown moribund because those parties placed far too much political power in the hands of those who seek power to enrich themselves .
Donald Trump is not the leader I would have chosen to break up that moribund political/financial combine. But Trump it is, Mr. and Mrs. America, the man the majority of you chose to be our 45th President with his finger on the nuclear trigger.
Will Trump be as disastrous as his campaign rhetoric and personal comments would lead us to expect, or is there hope things can change for the better?
For one answer, join Thomas Friedman as he searches for a “silver lining” in his post-election column for The New York Times.
Before I lay out all my fears, is there any silver lining to be found in this vote? I’ve been searching for hours, and the only one I can find is this: I don’t think Trump was truly committed to a single word or policy he offered during the campaign, except one phrase: “I want to win.”
But Donald Trump cannot be a winner unless he undergoes a radical change in personality and politics and becomes everything he was not in this campaign. He has to become a healer instead of a divider; a compulsive truth-teller rather than a compulsive liar; someone ready to study problems and make decisions based on evidence, not someone who just shoots from the hip; someone who tells people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear; and someone who appreciates that an interdependent world can thrive only on win-win relationships, not zero-sum ones.
Can there be a total make-over for Trump from the racist, misogynist bully he portrayed in his campaign? Is that even possible? This is not a beauty contest, a television show or a hotel complex.
It is the leadership of the free world he has been handed. If he wants his time in office to be one that is consistent with his stated desire to be a unifier and strong president, he must surround himself with builders who know how to shape a post-establishment political nation that unifies and does not divide.
For the rest of us, we know what we must do: Never despair and never quit working for others in our particular corner of God’s creation.
The image above, of President-elect Trump, is a screen shot taken on election night.