One of the by-products of COVID-19 is a strong desire to hope for something better that will occur somewhere else.
How many times have you said, or heard someone say, “If only…”? If only the food were better… If only we could get out and go where we want to go when we wat to go. If only I could … You fill in the blank. Dwelling on any of those thoughts for very long can lead us into a very deep state of depression.
A scan through the statements of President Abraham Lincoln reveals a man who underwent some very dark days. Consider, at the start of the War Between the States, Lincoln was resolute and visionary.
“The mystic chords of memory,” he announced in his inaugural address on March 4, 1861, “stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union.”
A little over a year into the war, on June 28, 1862, his rhetoric was tempered but still firm and uncompromising: “I expect to maintain this contest until successful, or till I die, or am conquered.”
And then the true darkness began to fall.
After a devastating defeat at Manassas in Virginia, Lincoln began first to worry, and then to doubt his cause: “Well, we are whipped again, I am afraid,” he moaned. “What shall we do? The bottom is out of the tub, the bottom is out of the tub!” (August 1862).
The next months and years for Lincoln were lived in near-constant, faith-shaking darkness and despair: “If there is a worse place than Hell, I am in it” (December1862, after defeat at Fredericksburg). “My God! My God! What will the country say?” (May 1863, after defeat at Chancellorsville). “This war is eating my life out. I have a strong impression that I shall not live to see the end” (1864).
And then, in the darkness a flicker of hope burst into flame. Union victories began turning the tide of the Civil War, and we can see Lincoln’s spirits lift.
Once again his rhetoric begins to soar, to reach resolutely toward his vision of one United States of America.
In March 1865, about a month before Lee’s surrender, Lincoln is able to regather his faith and speak, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right [as God gives], let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds … ” (Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865).
And finally, less than two weeks before his death, President Lincoln proclaimed the end of his trials: “Thank God I have lived to see this. It seems to me that I have been dreaming a horrid dream for four years, and now the nightmare is gone” (April 3, 1865).
Corrie ten Boom, the Dutch Christian watchmaker who along with the other members of her family spent time in Nazi prison camps for her part in hiding Jewish people in her home during World War II, had such an uplifting outlook as she went through the tough times of life during and after the war.
If anyone should be depressed and losing hope for the future, this lady should have been one of them. Instead, she lived a powerfully positive lifestyle, always seeing the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.
After the war, she returned to Germany in 1946, where she met with and forgave two of the workers who had been at Ravensbruck when she was there. One of those two had been particularly cruel to Corrie’s older sister Betsie while they were there.
Corrie went on to become a prolific writer and popular public speaker, sharing the many stories of her experiences during the war. One of my favorite comments of hers is, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”
Like Lincoln, we are all susceptible to depression, especially in times like these. But also like Lincoln, the one thing we can be sure of is that God is in control of our lives AND our circumstances!
Jesus Christ continues to call out to us, saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Like Lincoln, won’t you trust Him today?
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at email@example.com.