Many of us are finding it hard to avoid being discouraged amidst all the turmoil around us. It seems that evil is on the march across the globe. I fear what lies ahead, and I find myself praying a lot more lately.
But some of my conservative friends have slipped into despair and tell me they have given up trying to fight back because the system is rigged against us. These things bother me, too. But it is wrong to despair.
Now is not the time to drop out and hide from the struggle to take back our institutions and our country.
Father Richard John Neuhaus said, “Despair is a sin — because it doesn’t leave room for God to act.” Our faith tells us that with God all things are possible. But that does not mean we should sit on our hands, waiting for God to fix things. No, we must seek His direction on what He wants us to do and then do it. Chuck Colson used to tell us, “Stand your posts.”
God does not want us cowering in the trenches while Satan rampages through our institutions and the world. God has tasked us with proclaiming Truth and shining His light into the darkest of places. Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”
Certainly, there are times I get discouraged because we seem to be losing ground. But God’s prophets, such as Isaiah, felt the same. Albert Nock, a Christian political commentator, wrote an essay in 1936 “Isaiah’s Job” in which he put into modern language God’s instructions to Isaiah:
There is a remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it.
Yes, the Marxists have marched through our institutions and seem to be winning the battle. But in the end light always conquers darkness — always. A single match when lit illuminates the darkest room. Moses did not despair when faced with the impassable Red Sea in front of him and the Pharaoh’s “shock and awe” war chariots pressing down upon him from the rear. Despite this seemingly impossible situation, Moses continued to sing God’s praises. As Fr. Neuhaus said, Moses left “room for God to act.”
George Washington’s loyal troops suffered terribly at Valley Forge. It seemed the end of the Continental Army. But Washington’s faith never wavered. It is well recorded that for one hour each day he walked apart from the camp and prayed fervently for God’s guidance. And despite the odds, he led his army to victory over the mightiest nation on earth.
Yet, at those critical moments for Moses and with Washington, most of their people shirked their duty. The Hebrews were in rebellion, worshipping a golden calf. And some colonists despaired that Washington could not win. Despite that, neither Moses nor Washington despaired. Nor should we. Mother Teresa said, “God calls us to faithfulness, not success.” God chooses the time and place of victory; we do not. Our job is to remain faithful, as Moses and Washington did.
Thomas Paine wrote of those who shrank away from Washington in the hour of despair, “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country.” Samuel Adams also condemned those who dropped out of the battle for our independence, “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsel or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.”
I refuse to bend down and lick the hands that feed us, and I hope you will not either. Now is not the time to drop out and hide from the struggle to take back our institutions and our country. President Ronald Reagan reminded us that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” And it is up to us to do all we can to make sure our children and grandchildren live in a nation blessed with the freedom we have enjoyed.
In a Soviet gulag in frozen Siberia, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn prayed, “Through hopelessness to this point, from which even I have been able to convey some reflection of the Light which comes from you, you will enable me to go on doing as much as needs be done. And insofar as I do not manage it — that means that You have allotted the task to others.” There is peace in his prayer. We must do as much as we are able to do, but the things we are unable to accomplish God has already assigned to others.
The most repeated phrase in the Bible is “Fear not.” It occurs over 300 times in the Scriptures. God clearly wants us to understand that. As Churchill implored his embattled countrymen, “Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Our only job is to do our part.
Pat Nolan is Director Emeritus of the Nolan Center for Justice at the American Conservative Union Foundation.