Do you ever worry that our leaders don’t know what they’re doing?
Yeah, me too.
It’s easy to be frustrated when leaders act in ways I think are foolish, and to get excited when they make decisions I think are smart. Without realizing it, I rely on some officials to make “good” decisions and am certain others’ choices are “stupid” or ill-informed. (A little too honest?)
This happens even in the best of times. But as the world and our lives change daily due to concerns about COVID-19, it’s easy to cling even more closely to leaders we trust and to become more wary of those we don’t.
And it’s not only national leaders’ choices that affect us. State leaders, local school boards, and even our employers seem to have unprecedented control over our daily lives, as they decide where we’re allowed to shop and how often, which businesses must close, and who will be laid off.
Whether you lean left, right, or in the middle, in these uncertain times, you likely have concerns about some of our leaders’ decisions. However, if we were to discuss which leaders (and which decisions) we’re each worried about, we would all disagree. In addition to being from different countries or states, we each come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives.
So I’m not going to focus on which decisions are good and which aren’t, or who’s making them — because it doesn’t matter.
Psalm 118:8-9 tells us, “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in men. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.”
I believe that wholeheartedly — that we should take refuge in God, not in people.
Perhaps you believe it, too. But it’s easy to say we trust God — and I have no doubt we want to trust Him — but our moods and our stress levels rise and fall with what particular leaders decide in a given moment.
How can we really trust God instead of people?
Here’s a simple, three-step process to put our trust back in God, when we get nervous about our leaders’ choices.
1. In humility, look to others’ interests.
Philippians 2:3-4 says: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit. But in humility, count others more significant than yourself. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
How can this help us put our trust where it belongs, in God?
This verse tells us two things. First, have humility that we don’t know everything.
It can be so easy for me to armchair quarterback, to know exactly what I would do in a particular situation — especially when I think someone else is doing it wrong. <Ahem!> Humility suggests that perhaps I don’t have all the answers. It’s possible — even probable! — that our leaders have more information about the situation than I do.
Second, the verse reminds us to look not just to our own interests, but to the interests of others.
In this case, it’s useful to put myself in the leader’s place. Some days that’s not hard to do at all:
- I want to be in charge.
- I want to make the decisions.
- I want the opportunity to do what’s right.
Except, if I really put myself in our leaders’ shoes…
- It would be my job to decide whether or not to lay people off.
- I would have to choose if stores and restaurants stayed open or not.
- It would be up to me to weigh health and safety with economic concerns.
As stressful as it is being the recipient of those choices, I can’t imagine how much sleep I’d lose if I were responsible for making the decisions. When it comes down to it, I really don’t want to experience the consequences our leaders endure.
So the first step in putting our trust in God instead of people is to show humility and look to others’ interests by putting ourselves in their shoes — and then giving them some grace as we recognize they probably have more information than we do, and they definitely have more responsibility than we do.
2. Thank God for our leaders
Romans 13:1 says: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (ESV)
The second step to putting our trust in God instead of people is to recognize His sovereignty and to thank our Heavenly Father for the leaders He’s put in place.
That may seem odd, especially when we disagree with our leaders or don’t want them making decisions for us. But Isaiah 55:8 reminds us: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”
The Bible holds many examples of God putting leaders in positions of authority for His specific purposes. In some instances, He does that to help His people, such as when Esther became queen and was used to save the Jews from annihilation.
In other instances, God allowed rulers to remain in place whose decisions were detrimental to His people. When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God instructed Moses to tell Pharaoh: “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”
After some hesitation, Moses obeyed. And he may have expected Pharaoh to listen to him — after all, this was God’s plan. But life didn’t get easier for the Israelites as a result of Moses’ intervention; it actually got way more difficult. Over and over again, the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he wouldn’t let the Israelites go.
From our vantage point, we can see the whole story. And we know that God let things unfold the way they did so He could perform grander feats than the Israelites could ever imagine. But at the time, the people were confused and afraid.
Whether the decisions our leaders make will ultimately have a positive effect or a negative one, we don’t know. And we don’t know why God allows the leaders He does to be in power, or why he allows them to make the decisions they do. But one thing we do know: God is way smarter than us, and His ways are superior to ours.
So the second step to putting our trust in God rather than people is to recognize that God has allowed these leaders to be in place, and to thank Him for it.
3. Pray for all who are in high positions
1 Timothy 2:1-2 says: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
The third step to putting our refuge in the LORD and not in princes is to pray for our leaders. Pray for the people who are making the decisions.
Now, I freely admit that my flesh would rather complain about the leaders I disagree with than pray for them. And it might not always occur to me to pray for the leaders I admire because they seem to be doing fine on their own. (Ouch!) But the apostle Paul reminds us to pray for all who are in high positions. And Jesus admonished us to love and pray for our enemies — so, even the leaders we disagree with.
When I do pray for our leaders, I’m often tempted to pray that they see things the “right” way — that is, the way I think things should be. But, like Jesus, we’re called to pray, not that our will, but God’s will be done.
And if you’re uncomfortable with prayer? Check out these posts:
- Why Prayer is the Answer — Even When You Don’t Want it to Be
- 5 Reasons You Don’t Want to Pray (And Why They’re Wrong)
- The One Thing You Need to Make Your Prayer Life Flourish
Putting it all together
Even though I want to trust God whole-heartedly, it’s almost automatic to worry about the decisions being made for us and around us.
Following this 3-step process prepares our hearts and minds to take refuge in God rather than in people by
- Reminding us the decisions are not ours to make (and we wouldn’t want them to be)
- Recognizing that God sometimes arranges circumstances that we don’t understand, but He is a God of miracles and should be praised.
- Remembering that our leaders need our “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” that they may do God’s will.
None of these actions is necessarily going to cause our leaders to make decisions we agree with. And sometimes they will make objectively bad choices because they’re human.
But following these steps brings our focus back to God, so we can really live the words of Proverbs 3:5-6:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Heavenly Father, you are sovereign and you have miraculous power! I don’t know why you allow our leaders to make decisions I don’t understand, but thank you. Because I know you’re in charge and I’m not. And I know your thoughts are higher than my thoughts and my ways are not your ways. Be with all of our leaders, the ones I have trouble agreeing with and the ones I follow too closely, and guide them to do your will. Help them to make decisions that glorify you! And guide me to seek your wisdom and your will in all situations. May you be my refuge, rather than people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.