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Two Voices from the Past for Today

While my wife and I were visiting out-of-state relatives recently, one of our daughters was taking advantage of her public library’s provision of a free genealogical program to do some research on her ancestors. (Finally! I thought. Family history holds interest for her, if not yet for her siblings!) Nearly every day of our vacation, she e-mailed me to share new discoveries she was making.

In one such e-mail, she quoted from a letter that one relative had written to another. (I still haven’t figured out the precise blood connections of those people to me, or else I’ve forgotten it, but I assume that they were both my distant cousins, and the correspondents were themselves cousins of each other.)

Sometime in 1853, Daniel, a preacher, wrote to Polly and her father, Solomon. Daniel’s letter opened with his reply to a reference Polly had made in an earlier letter to him about an “affliction” she was suffering. He wrote,

[Y]our affliction doubtless proceeds from a kind and beneficent hand, and as such you ought to resign yourself submissively to the Will of Him who is the disposer of all events. You might also take courage and feel firmly assured that you are one of his beloved ones because it is that “The Lord loveth whome he chasteneth” and as this is the case you can still be thankful to God. . . . [I]t is but a very short time . . . until this mortality shall put on immortality and consequently, no deformity of person, but all will be perfection and beauty and Holliness [sic] but it is common and natural for all of us to complain and murmur at every slight visitation of the afflictive hand of Providence but we must try to quite [sic] “grumbling.”

This quotation make me think of how easy it is for those of us who live in the United States and enjoy its boundless benefits, all of which are bestowed on us by a merciful God, to find what is wrong and gripe about it rather than realizing the positive and trying to protect it. By every tool of measurement–economic, political, religious, medical, etc.–this country offers more to the individual than any other country on earth. That’s why people all over the world aspire to come here. You’ll find few among those living here who want to live anywhere else. Even those who declare loudly before an election that if the candidate they oppose wins, they’ll leave the country afterward never do. Deep inside, they know there is not better place.

That’s not to say that the USA is perfect. Far from it. But the poorest here are comparatively wealthy in contrast to those living in most other country on any continent of the world.

Rather than griping or going about destroying what we and others here do have, we should be thanking the good Lord for what we have and working to correct the wrongs, mend the flaws, and protect the freedoms. If we don’t, we’re apt to lose them all one day and awake to find ourselves with something really worth complaining about. But by then we might not even have the freedom to complain!

That brings me to the second quotation I discovered. Writing in 1962, almost 60 years ago (and before some of my readers were even born), Richard Weaver, a professor at the University of Chicago, wrote the following:

The past shows unvaryingly that when a people’s freedom disappears, it goes not with a bang, but in silence amid the comfort of being cared for. That is the dire peril in the present trend toward statism. If freedom is not found accompanied by a willingness to resist, and to reject favors, rather than to give up what is intangible but precarious, it will not long be found at all. (Emphasis added.)

What would Weaver think of Americans’ reactions to the events surrounding us in the present crises?

Do you find yourself, as I have myself, griping about (fill in the blank) and surrendering your freedoms, or are you thanking God for your blessings and working to preserve them? Are you looking to government, with its scandals and ulterior motives and constantly changing “truths,” to keep you comfortable and “cared for” and to protect you from everything? Or are you trusting in the God who said, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, . . . thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end”? (Jer. 29:11)

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