By Bret Bernhardt
Every two years, Washington and Capitol Hill usher in a season of change and transition following elections and the coming of a new Congress.
By design, no one is exempt from this change. It may be that the member or candidate you work for or will work for has lost, retired, been reelected, or just won for the first time.
And everyone is facing the transition from an old Congress to a new one, which brings a myriad of changes, including numerous changes in committee leadership and membership.
Even if you are in the same office when the 117th Congress convenes in January 2021, there will be numerous changes as well. Members increase in seniority, bringing changes within an office and a shuffling of staff.
New Members are facing even greater change in setting up a new office and staff, some in a place unlike the familiar surroundings of home. And those who have lost are now faced with the jolting reality of life following a breakneck, possibly heart-breaking, campaign.
You may be asking yourself how will all of this affect me and how do I respond?
This is typical of life on the Hill where change, and often dramatic change, occurs every two years. So this time of transition can be both exhilarating and anxious at the same time. So, how do we as followers of Jesus deal with and approach this cycle of change?
“This is typical of life on the Hill where change, and often dramatic change, occurs every two years.”
My grandfather, a product of the Great Depression, was concerned about my future in such a transient place of employment, and he asked what I would do if my boss lost his race. I replied, “I’ll look for a new job.”
It wasn’t a criticism from him but an acknowledgment that we indeed live in a unique workplace. One in which we can’t take our jobs for granted. And, in a good way, this moves us toward a reliance on God’s provision, regardless of what happens.
This was illustrated so well in 2016 when the chaplain of the Senate, Barry C. Black, was asked how he felt about the just-completed election. He replied, calmly, that he was “grateful, optimistic, and satisfied.” He said this, not just for that particular season of change, but for every season of change that believers face in life.
These three words have become a cornerstone of how I approach change of any kind in my life. This is not to say that, once we understand this fact, it becomes easy, but rather that it gives us a target to aim for.
Black went on to give the scriptural reasons for this approach:
“Grateful — 1 Thessalonians 5:18: ‘In everything, give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you in Christ Jesus.’
“Optimistic — Romans 8:28: ‘In everything, God is working for the good of those who love Him, who are the called according to His purposes.’
“Satisfied — Philippians 4:12: ‘I have learned in every state to feel contentment.’ In short, after the election of any president, as a person of faith, I know I have nothing to fear.”
As we on Capitol Hill enter this season of change, we would be well served by taking these words to heart.
Fortunately, as believers in Christ, we live in community with one another. Times like these are what the Lord uses to knit that community together.
So, heed the biblical admonition to lift up and encourage one another as instructed in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 — “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
“While digital communication is quick and easy, it’s no replacement for personal connection through someone’s voice or presence.”
This isn’t a lonely venture, but rather a call to be in fellowship with others, as in Matthew 18:20 — “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” In the age of the pandemic, this includes virtual gatherings.
Isolation and loneliness in times like these are a real danger. I have felt it as well. So, it is important to counter that with healthy relationships. While digital communication is quick and easy, it’s no replacement for personal connection through someone’s voice or presence. There are good, constructive, and healthy ways to make that happen.
As we maintain a posture of gratitude, optimism, and contentment, along with genuine fellowship, we will be able to get through this or any period of change in our lives.
Bret Bernhardt served on the Hill as chief of staff to senators Don Nickles of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina. He is now a member of the board of directors of Faith & Law and the Conservative Partnership Institute.