This is a very long post. You have been warned.
We live in a time without much hope or joy. All I see on the news is doom and gloom. As Independence Day has come and gone, some are questioning America’s future. “Are we a great nation still?” “Can we reconcile the things that divide us?” “With the government run amuck, can we actually return to the democratic republic we once were?” – Truthfully, I don’t know the answer to the questions. But what I do know is this, I can’t persevere in an environment that constantly tells me there is no hope. That head space for someone like me is a deep pit of despair, and climbing out of it is extremely painful. I have a hard enough time dealing with an uncertain future, but to have this joyless dejection shoved in my face 24/7 doesn’t help.
I am proud to be an American. Not because I idolize my country like some false God, but, even with all her troubles, this is still the ” last and greatest bastion of freedom” ( first inaugural address of President Ronald Reagan) on the planet. We have gone through trials before, and come through in the end. There is nothing new under the sun. The politics of the past are just as hate filled and brutal as they ever were ( and from what I read of past politics, they were worse). History shows us the trials we go through now are not new. Can you imagine being at the foot of the cross watching Jesus get crucified? I’m sorry, but I think it would seem like end of days right there – yet it wasn’t. Or when our country erupted in Civil War. You can’t tell me people didn’t start questioning whether this was the end of our nation. How about the Jewish people sitting in internment camps under Nazi rule watching friends and family slaughtered by an evil dictator who some were calling “not that bad”.
It seems to be human nature not see evil for what it is (even when it’s standing right in front of us with a sign around its neck saying “Hi my name is evil – what’s yours?”). We play with it like children intrigued by fire. Getting just close enough to feel the heat, but not close enough to do too much damage. What we fail realize is fire is unpredictable. At any moment that tiny flame, we thought we had control of, can spark and start a fire that destroys all we have built.
However, if God can turn beauty from ashes then he can turn that blaze into a refining fire. That is my hope for my country. That this fire some intentionally and some unintentionally started can be turned around and refine our nation.
For all the people out there preaching this is the “end of days” or “there is no hope for America” do you honestly think you are the first to believe this, or heck that you will be the last? Because history tell us otherwise. Instead of planning for the end, I challenge you to plan for a beginning. I don’t assume this will be easy, or that times of sadness will not overcome you. But I truly believe that America can be great again. As a young nation, our country is experiencing the issues other nations have, just in a shorter amount of time which means she could come out of it far more quickly ( because let’s face it Europe is still having issues – Greece anyone? ).
I don’t assume to know the heart of God, and I know The United States of America is not guaranteed to succeed. But “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness” (Edward Mote, 1834). God has known this was coming, and knows how it will end ” For I know the plans I have for you , “declares the LORD, ” Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV). I plan to seek my God for hope in our future. For I see a potential for greatness again, and a way to a prosperous future. I am not ignoring the bad things that are happening, not only in the US, but in the world around us. Ultimately though, My freedom is God given so “I walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments” (Psalms 119:45 NLT).
If you still doubt that we have seen days such as theses before, I direct you to excepts from Thomas Paine’s essay The American Crisis which was a call to arms. We have see before “times that try men’s souls” and ” a ravaged country — a depopulated city — habitations without safety, and slavery without hope”. If you cannot see the parallels to our current troubles then I cannot help you. However, as for me and my house, we are trying to choose joy and a hopeful future.
Without further ado, the words of Thomas Paine:
“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but “to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER” and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.
Whether the independence of the continent was declared too soon, or delayed too long, I will not now enter into as an argument; my own simple opinion is, that had it been eight months earlier, it would have been much better. We did not make a proper use of last winter, neither could we, while we were in a dependent state. However, the fault, if it were one, was all our own; we have none to blame but ourselves. But no great deal is lost yet. All that Howe has been doing for this month past, is rather a ravage than a conquest, which the spirit of the Jerseys, a year ago, would have quickly repulsed, and which time and a little resolution will soon recover.
I have as little superstition in me as any man living, but my secret opinion has ever been, and still is, that God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction, or leave them unsupportedly to perish, who have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war, by every decent method which wisdom could invent. Neither have I so much of the infidel in me, as to suppose that He has relinquished the government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils; and as I do not, I cannot see on what grounds the king of Britain can look up to heaven for help against us: a common murderer, a highwayman, or a house-breaker, has as good a pretence as he.
‘Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country. All nations and ages have been subject to them.”
“But, before the line of irrecoverable separation be drawn between us, let us reason the matter together: Your conduct is an invitation to the enemy, yet not one in a thousand of you has heart enough to join him. Howe is as much deceived by you as the American cause is injured by you. He expects you will all take up arms, and flock to his standard, with muskets on your shoulders. Your opinions are of no use to him, unless you support him personally, for ’tis soldiers, and not Tories, that he wants.
I once felt all that kind of anger, which a man ought to feel, against the mean principles that are held by the Tories: a noted one, who kept a tavern at Amboy, was standing at his door, with as pretty a child in his hand, about eight or nine years old, as I ever saw, and after speaking his mind as freely as he thought was prudent, finished with this unfatherly expression, “Well! give me peace in my day.” Not a man lives on the continent but fully believes that a separation must some time or other finally take place, and a generous parent should have said, “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace;” and this single reflection, well applied, is sufficient to awaken every man to duty. Not a place upon earth might be so happy as America. Her situation is remote from all the wrangling world, and she has nothing to do but to trade with them. A man can distinguish himself between temper and principle, and I am as confident, as I am that God governs the world, that America will never be happy till she gets clear of foreign dominion. Wars, without ceasing, will break out till that period arrives, and the continent must in the end be conqueror; for though the flame of liberty may sometimes cease to shine, the coal can never expire.”
“I thank God, that I fear not. I see no real cause for fear. I know our situation well, and can see the way out of it. While our army was collected, Howe dared not risk a battle; and it is no credit to him that he decamped from the White Plains, and waited a mean opportunity to ravage the defenseless Jerseys; but it is great credit to us, that, with a handful of men, we sustained an orderly retreat for near an hundred miles, brought off our ammunition, all our field pieces, the greatest part of our stores, and had four rivers to pass. None can say that our retreat was precipitate, for we were near three weeks in performing it, that the country might have time to come in. Twice we marched back to meet the enemy, and remained out till dark. The sign of fear was not seen in our camp, and had not some of the cowardly and disaffected inhabitants spread false alarms through the country, the Jerseys had never been ravaged. Once more we are again collected and collecting; our new army at both ends of the continent is recruiting fast, and we shall be able to open the next campaign with sixty thousand men, well armed and clothed. This is our situation, and who will may know it. By perseverance and fortitude we have the prospect of a glorious issue; by cowardice and submission, the sad choice of a variety of evils — a ravaged country — a depopulated city — habitations without safety, and slavery without hope — our homes turned into barracks and bawdy-houses for Hessians, and a future race to provide for, whose fathers we shall doubt of. Look on this picture and weep over it! and if there yet remains one thoughtless wretch who believes it not, let him suffer it unlamented.
December 23, 1776”