Why So Downcast...
Those of you who know me know that I have a great love for American history, especially that which centers on the Civil War. As far as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by it. I wrote a poem in 3rd grade about George Washington and, in 4th grade, my poem about Abraham Lincoln took first place at my school! (I was a poet and didn’t even know it).
Recently, Mary and I were able to visit the Civil War battlefield in Antietam, Maryland, where Lee first tried to invade the North. If you are not familiar with that battle, it was fought on September 17, 1862, and over 23,000 Americans fell in battle – more than all American wars before that day, combined. It still exists as the bloodiest day in American history, equivalent to nearly eight 9/11’s.
What fascinates me about that war are the “human interest” stories. Each battle has them and they really tug at my heart. At Antietam, one story in particular was about two brothers-in-law. Sisters Eva and Rebecca Taylor married two very different men. Eva married Union Colonel Henry Kingsbury while Rebecca married Confederate Brigadier General David Jones. How’d you like to be a part of that family’s Christmas celebration? The ironic part of this story is that they faced each other at Antietam. Not only were they both present at the battle, on opposing sides, but they actually fought against each other at one point in the battle.
The Confederates occupied a hill overlooking a stone bridge, later to be known as “Burnside’s Bridge”, named after the Union General Ambrose Burnside. He attempted to take the bridge and the heights most of that day, finally being successful late in the afternoon. By the way, General Burnside is often credited for the term “sideburns” (if you see a picture of him, you'll understand why). During the Battle, Colonel Kingsbury was shot four times and died on the field. Four months later, General Jones was also killed in another battle. The term “brother against brother” was so true during that war and many families were split apart because of it.
Think about how terrifying it must have been for those two sisters. To be young, with children, and to lose your husband who, back then, was the family’s security, protector, and money maker. No Social Security, no Medicare, no life insurance. They likely did not have high hopes for their future. My grandmother had a similar experience. In the early 1900’s, she lost two husbands and was left with four children all under the age of seven.
Sometimes we are faced with terrifying prospects. Maybe not as dramatic as what these women faced, but terrifying nonetheless. The enemy loves to bring fear, anxiety, discouragement, and depression to the people of God to try and persuade them to give up. When things like this happen, we often feel abandoned by God. But – thank God – we do not walk by feelings. By faith, we need to remind ourselves of God’s promises that He will never leave us or forget us, and that He will provide for all our needs.
When I have these feelings of dread, I often quote Psalm 42:5 to myself. It says, “Why are you downcast O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” This is a great reminder that God is our only hope. We cannot put our hope in man, or in the government, or in ourselves. We must put our hope in God alone. He is our protector. He is our provider. He is our all in all.
Notice also that it says “I will YET praise Him.” I think the writer of this Psalm intentionally put that in there to remind us that, although we may not FEEL like praising Him during those moments, we will again. And we should. God is worthy of our praise and honor no matter what we are going through. Try it the next time you are troubled. Start worshipping and praising the One who is your Savior and Lord. By doing so, not only will you be giving Him the honor He deserves, but you will be taking your eyes off of your problems and will be focusing them on His glory and power. That will lift your spirit and give you hope for the future, as you see how much greater God is than your problems.