November 2023 President’s Message San Clemente Area Republican Women
Thriving in Times That Try Our Souls
By Susan St. Peters
With the election of Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House, we finally got some much-needed good news in the miasma of “not good news” that pervades our lives these days. True Conservatives everywhere have been rejoicing at this happy, likely miraculous, turn of events.
Yet as American Revolutionary Thomas Paine famously wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” His words could easily be spoken today as we are bombarded with wave after wave of crisis, and our responses to these difficult times reveal who we truly are. Our values are under attack daily as are ordinary citizens who dare to speak out against the politically correct narrative or who happen to be somehow “in the way” of the globalist agenda.
The unspeakable atrocities perpetrated against Israel in Hamas’s recent terrorist attack have left all who value human life reeling. Who could do such diabolical acts to babies and families and not only be remorseless but exhilarated over such cruel brutality? If anyone doubts the veracity of Jeremiah 17:9, which declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” the evidence of recent days should disabuse those clinging to the erroneous notion that human beings are basically good.
Yet God, the unchanging constant, is good. Psalm 145:9 proclaims “The Lord is good to all. He has compassion on all He has made.” Scripture overflows with passages testifying of the goodness of God. But alongside that goodness, humanity endowed with free-will simultaneously faces and sometimes chooses terrible evil. For an insightful, in-depth examination of this problem, see Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, much of which was delivered as an on-air radio address during World War II to bring hope to an embattled public.
When we encounter difficult times, we shouldn’t be shocked because John 16:33 reminds us, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” In 2 Timothy 3: 1-5 we’re told: “But know this, that in the last days [a]perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, [b]unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” We recognize that we are living in such times, but it’s still easy to feel caught off guard when the newest catastrophe hits.
Each week seems to bring some new horror that rocks our world. Thankfully, God is our bigger and more powerful rock as Psalm 71:3 reminds us. “Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.” Earlier in Psalm 61:2, we are encouraged to call out to God for help: “From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been somewhat frequently calling out to God whom the Psalmist describes as “…our refuge and strength,/A[a] very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). When I take my eyes off the terrible circumstances of today’s world and put them on Him, I am calmed as I remember the ensuing verses of that Psalm:
2 Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the [b]midst of the sea;
3 Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
(Psalm 46:2-3, 7).
It's so easy to take our eyes off of God and, like Peter, to sink beneath the waves. Yet focusing on our fears or on our circumstances is precisely what we must not do. We can and should cry out to God, casting our cares on Him, pouring out our sorrow and brokenness to Him. In total dependence upon and surrender to Him as our only hope, we can then move forward as He would have us move and fulfill the calling to which we have been called.
The best antidote for fear and sadness is to remind ourselves the truths that we know about God and His nature and to have a heart full of thankfulness.
My mother was the church organist, so I grew up hearing hymns not only in church but at home as she practiced. One hymn that many of us grew up singing contains quite profound wisdom, wisdom that as a child I did not comprehend but that is relevant to and essential for today:
“When upon life’s billows, you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”
In the midst of discouragement or despair, counting one’s blessings does not always come easily, and at first doing so can seem like “easy believism” or “refusal to face reality.” But we’re not called to give thanks for wickedness or evil; rather, we’re told to give thanks to God for His infinite love for us as a spiritual act of worship (I Thessalonians 5:8). The very act of obedience opens the door to a change in perspective and thus to healing and restoration. Sometimes in order to give thanks, we have to pour out our sorrows before God to make room for thankfulness to sprout (and a person might even express thankfulness in the midst of sorrow). God understands what it is to feel overwhelmed by sadness and grief; indeed, the Messiah is described as “a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
We may have to ask for God’s help in the midst of our pain to have Him reveal to us that for which we ought to be thankful, as pain-filled eyes aren’t always able to see clearly. Mercifully, God does not ask or expect us to “work up” a heart of thanksgiving out of our own strength; we need merely ask Him for it. Ezekiel 36:26-27 states, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will keep my judgments and do them.” Sometimes my heart has felt like a “heart of stone,” unable to bear all that’s wrong in our world. But God doesn’t intend for any of us to carry that burden; it’s far too heavy. Instead, we’re to “cast all [our] cares upon Him, for He cares for [us]” (I Peter 5:7).
As we head into this season of Thanksgiving, let the words of Abraham Lincoln in his formal proclamation, passed by an Act of Congress, initiating the first annual National Day of Thanksgiving while the nation was in the midst of the Civil War remind us to give thanks:
“No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things*. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy….
I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday in November next as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens….[it is] announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord….It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.”
*The gracious gifts from God to which President Lincoln refers range from the bountiful crops in the fields to the fact that in the midst of civil war, peace has been preserved with all nations.
May the Lord give us thankful hearts and fit us for His service in whatever aspects He calls us each to serve. May He renew our strength and embolden us to stand for righteousness.
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