Britain has voted to leave the European Union. Most global leaders had expected the U.K. to stay in the EU, but the vote was fifty-two percent for exiting the twenty-eight-member bloc.
The withdrawal process will take up to two years, so nothing will change immediately. But make no mistake—this is a historic event. One British lawmaker called the outcome “a seismic moment for our country.” Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that he will resign. Global markets plunged; the Dow Jones is projected to fall more than 500 points when it opens this morning.
Brexit proponents were especially frustrated about immigration. With a net migration of 330,000 people to the U.K. in 2015, more than half from the EU, many felt their national identity was under attack and that the influx endangered schools, housing, and health care.
“Take control” was the slogan of the “Leave” campaign, and it clearly resonated with the people. As The New York Times noted, “referendums are not about the question asked but the political mood at the time, and the political mood is sour.”
That may be an understatement.
In the U.S., Democrats and Republicans are condemning each other for inaction on gun control. The president is condemning the Supreme Court’s decision that thwarted his efforts to expand immigration through executive action.
We are anxious about the economy. Writing for Foreign Affairs, Dartmouth economist Douglas Irwin notes that productivity gains from technology caused eighty-five percent of the manufacturing job losses between 2000 and 2010. Such jobs are not coming back. Globalization and innovation are making a new economy that victimizes those who cannot adapt.
Many Christians are anxious about religious freedom. There’s been a national uproar after a thirty-three year veteran of the Air Force was forcibly removed from a retirement ceremony because he invoked God in a speech. (For more, see Nick Pitt’s article.) More than three-quarters of evangelicals feel religious liberty is more threatened than it was ten years ago.
The impact of the Brexit for the U.K. and the world will unfold across coming months. But whatever comes of today’s news, here’s the good news: Our well-being does not depend on being well. Facing his “thorn in the flesh,” Paul testified: “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Jesus predicted a world filled with “tribulation,” but he taught us to “take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:30). While “the world is passing away along with its desires,” we are promised that “whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).
A principle of sports psychology is to “control the controllables.” I cannot control the global impact of the Brexit, but I can control my decisions and priorities. A phrase I read this morning struck me: “Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10). This is not a suggestion or principle but a present-tense command. Every moment, in every situation, seek and do what would most please God.
You may not please the world or be pleased by it. But you will live a life that matters. And that’s what matters most.