Nowhere else to go

Lincoln consults with McClellan after Antietam, October 3, 1862. Photo by Alexander Gardner via the Library of Congress and Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Lincoln consults with McClellan after Antietam, October 3, 1862.
Photo by Alexander Gardner via Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons, public domain

“I have been many times driven to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”Abraham Lincoln

Not quite 152 years ago, the United States endured “the single bloodiest day in American military history” at the battle of Antietam.  Despite having a two-to-one advantage in troop numbers, the federal forces were unable to achieve more than a draw, though Lincoln claimed victory in driving Lee’s forces from Maryland.

The quote above, documented in Scribner’s Monthly, must have been referring to the events of 1862.  It would be hard to imagine a more difficult year for anyone to endure.  Lincoln’s beloved son Willie had died in February, and the outcome of the war was far from certain at the end of that year.

Lincoln’s struggles with depression have been a topic of much conjecture, but I am far more amazed at his resilience and ability to press on in the face of relentlessly daunting opposition, both political and military.  Who wouldn’t have been depressed, given his circumstances?  Yet he led our nation through its most desperate era, and I’m convinced he could not have accomplished all that he did, had he not sought divine help.

I feel fairly certain that nobody who is reading this post will ever face trials of the magnitude that Lincoln withstood.  Yet all of us must sometimes share his feeling that our own wisdom and everyone else’s combined is not sufficient for the complexity of challenges we navigate.

The next time you feel you have nowhere to go, remember Lincoln and the responsibilities he bore.  His actions continue to reverberate to this day, and more than one historian believes he was the greatest president in our nation’s history.  May his words and example provide us with inspiration to defeat despair.

One year ago today:

Persistent prayer

32 Comments

  1. Larry

    With anyone who has faith in God, when there is nowhere else to go, we prostrate ourselves and go to prayer. Everywhere from Kings to Presidents to common man, we all can cast our burdens to the shoulders of a mighty God who hears our prayers.

    • Larry, how wonderful that we have someplace to go even when there is no place to go…and even more wonderful when we learn to go there at other times too! Thanks for being here.

  2. Julia…good morning. An interesting photo. Lincoln certainly had a rough life and had a right to be depressed.
    I’m seldom critical of our President and leaders…they are trying to do their best…and can’t please everyone. And I probably couldn’t do better…
    Besides, we’re told in the Bible “we’re to pray for our leaders.” (1 Tim. 2:1-2)

    • Merry, I so agree! Our country’s leaders — ALL of them — are dealing with very difficult issues. Many of them are aging and facing health and family problems. They have to listen, listen, listen and then listen some more, and no matter what they do, people criticize. I’m not saying that they don’t sometimes deserve it, but I think very few of us have any idea what it is like to be in their position. It’s sad that there is so much corruption in politics and so many selling out to the highest bidder, but it’s also sad that even when elected representatives do things right (or at least try to) someone is there to try to tear them down. Definitely we need to pray for them, again and again. For one thing, it’s very hard to hate someone you pray for regularly, and however much we may be justified in criticizing our leaders, hating them is NOT an option for people of faith and good will. And that verse says we are to pray for ALL people and ALL those in authority. We once had a minister who passed out lists of the president, king, pm or other leader of EVERY SINGLE COUNTRY ON EARTH so that we could pray for each of them by name! He said “don’t worry if you can’t pronounce their names, God knows who they are!” 😀

  3. Good morning, Julia!
    Lincoln was right – and he sounds a little like Solomon – there just isn’t enough wisdom here on earth. I sure am glad that Lincoln looked on the right place to seek wisdom!
    I’ve been seeking wisdom from God, too, and today this blog is helping me to not give up. I certainly haven’t achieved anything that could pass for wisdom, but it seems that Lincoln knew better than to just give up.
    Thank you for sharing these glimpses with us!

    • Susan, I appreciate your kind words. I start almost every morning, before I get out of bed, praying for help to do whatever it is God wants me to do for that day. Generally I wake up feeling like I’d rather stay in bed and be lazy 😀 or dreading at least some of what I have to do. I find that asking for guidance each day helps me get out of bed with a better attitude. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be Lincoln — or for that matter, any person in the US, of any race or gender or social position during the years of the Civil War. Realizing what previous generations survived gives me some perspective.

  4. singleseatfighterpilot

    It is said that Lincoln was once asked if he were not convinced that God was on the side of The Union. His reply was that he was not so much concerned that God was on their side, as that they were on God’s side.

    • Eric, Lincoln definitely got the question phrased right. It’s very sobering to think how many atrocious deeds have been committed by people who claimed to be acting with God’s approval. BTW I’ve read some online who said they found no record of Lincoln having ever said that. Well, here it is, as taken from a book published in 1866 by an artist who painted Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation.

  5. Julia, great post and wonderful quote by Lincoln.
    When hell is all around you, simply raise your eyes to heaven.
    -Alan

    • Thank you Alan. I am sure many people have survived wars, plagues, disasters and tragedies by refusing to quit looking up. May we all have such hope!

  6. Jack

    I have learned a great lesson in my getting older, that my reaction to my circumstances and the circumstances can oddly be, in a way, mutually exclusive. Here’s why: most of the things I considered to be tragic in my younger days, those as benign as a lost love, to active addiction have turned out to be my greatest blessings. To love bad circumstances is masochism. To know that there is nothing beyond redemption is the beginning of wisdom. As one of my spiritual teachers says, “Pain is the touchstone of all spiritual growth.” Amen!

    • Jack, if only it was fun and frolic that built strong character! But you are right, the tough times are what make us who we are. Perhaps this is why we are commanded to “rejoice always.” As you point out, that doesn’t mean we like pain or bad circumstances, only that we always have the chance to redeem it.

  7. Julia, what an inspiration this blog and the various subjects that you present every day are to all that are lucky enough to be here. We’ll never be taller than when we fall on our knees!

    • Sheila, thank you so much for being here, and adding your kind thoughts and words! I have been enjoying our autumn Verandah photo today – it’s actually been COOL and fall-ish, such a relief after the intense heat of the past week!

      • Julia, this weekend I was cleaning out a closet and I was surprised to find a stack of those calendars that dated back to 1996. That’s a lot of porches! 🙂 I’m so glad you’re my “porch friend”.

        • WOW, I have almost that many Mary Englebreit calendars! I can never bear to throw an old calendar away. There are lots of fun crafty things to do with them (which is what I tell myself when I save them), but sometimes I like to just look through them at the gorgeous photos or artwork. Maybe sometime if you have the time, you could go through them all and do a “best of” competition and see which porch wins! Talk about a tough decision – I couldn’t even do that with the one calendar I have! 😀

  8. I’ve fought with depression my whole adult life. It makes no sense to me why my mood swings for no apparent reason. I have no reason to be down yet I struggle through the lows and enjoy the highs.

    • Bob, I think most of us struggle with depression sometimes, and some of us struggle with it a lot. As you say, it doesn’t necessarily correlate to the immediate situation. I’ve seen a pattern over the years, though, that I tend to get depressed a year or so AFTER I’ve been through a very stressful period of time. It’s like the adrenaline keeps me going through the crisis, and then I crash later. It blindsided me the first couple of times, but I have learned to be wary of it. Like right now, I am doing everything I can to shore up defenses against it, one of which will be to not over-react if it hits, and just “ride the waves” until it passes. Though it’s always hard to believe, I remind myself that “I will not feel this bad forever.”

      • I always tell myself to give it 24 hours.

        • That’s a good strategy. Then you can do the same thing if it doesn’t look better the next day — but it almost always does.

  9. raynard

    Julia just running back and forth to NJ for the past 2 months every weekend for me is enough to” make you feel stuck”.. Changed my morning routine this morning to get a better prospective. Got a good night sleep so” a bowl of Frosted Flakes is ” greeeat and just around the corner.. Be blessed

    • Raynard, it always amazes me what a difference a good night of sleep can make. Since we make a trip to and from York almost weekly, and that’s not even as far as New Jersey, I know those regular trips can get to be a grind. But I hope you are able to tweak your routine just enough to keep things feeling a bit less burdensome. I also hope (and pray) that things are going better now for your wife’s family.

  10. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. I of course knew who Lincoln was and some of his political achievements before the recent movie with Daniel Day Lewis (who BTW blew my mind with his portrayal), but that movie really shed light on the time and era. To some extent, I think we’re all a bit of a product of the time we live and where we live. But President Lincoln seemed to be swimming against the current and instinctively knew it was the right course despite the status quo that others were comfortably living. These individuals are a rarity I think. Maybe there are more than we know but others don’t have the conviction of their beliefs to seek out ways to change the world. How many suffer in silence rather than effect with action? The photo above is stunning too. It’s so crisp and clear for the age. I see his hat there on the table behind him and burnt candles and the scrolled arm of the chair seems out of place in a tent. Thank goodness for the works of Mr Talbot in the field of photography only 50 years earlier so that we can see the past come to life even now.

    • K, I love that photo too, and all the details you described. It blows me away how good it is. Maybe somebody got ahold of it and restored it before the L of C published it online. In any case, I’m happy we have it. I would have guessed it was Matthew Brady’s (he gets most of the glory for photos from that era) but according to Wikimedia Commons, Mr. Talbot did it. As soon as I saw that photo I knew I would have to use it in a post. Lewis was great as Lincoln. A couple of years ago Jeff and I saw the play Necessary Sacrifices at Ford’s Theater. There were only two main characters in the play, Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, and it was rather eerie to see a man portraying Lincoln, standing just below the box where he was sitting when he was assassinated. You and Alys will have to tour Ford’s Theater when you come. I loved seeing the play there because it’s one of those small theaters where you sit very close to the players.

      • We should try and go there, I love live theatre and of course being a theatre major, Alys would be over the moon I’m sure.
        Shelby looked perfect for the part for sure. I’m truly in awe of anyone who can memorize lines and deliver them as someone else so convincingly. Oh man, this will be so much fun xox ❤

        • One of the first things Jeff and I discovered in common was a love of live theater. I guess it’s in my blood to a certain extent, since my dad’s parents were in show business. If Ford’s has any sort of production going on while you’re here, maybe we can get tickets. If you attend a play there, the museum admission comes with it. It’s a small museum but very well done. And sitting in the audience, it’s hard to keep one’s eyes off that fateful box just above the stage on the right. It was quite an extraordinary experience for my first visit to the theater to be a play about Lincoln. After a history of neglect and closure, I’m glad the theater was renovated and re-opened. Just one of many, many wonderful things to see and do…as I said in the beginning, how many months can you stay? 😀

          • How long can you stand house guests? LOL It’d be fun to stay at least 7 or 8 days. It’s much easier for me than Alys, so I will defer to her. My gosh J, are you sure you’d want to host? We can easily book into a place near by. We’ll Skype ❤ I'm excited already xo

            • Maybe the better question would be, How long can you stand me? Seriously, a hotel would be such a drag, I’d have to come home early and we couldn’t have any late night gab fests. Besides, you know how cheap frugal I am, and it would feel like a waste of money. The good thing about our townhome is that all the guest accommodations are downstairs, with the kitchen and living room on the main floor as a “buffer zone” between the upstairs bedrooms, so nobody wakes anybody else up. It’s actually fairly private and quiet down here, except when we’re doing laundry (the laundry room is also downstairs).

              • Will Jeff and Matt be ok with all the laughter and late nights? Alys and I would turn out the lights and yak it up until one of us were too tired to talk, LOL. OMgosh, what fun, your guys will be rolling there eyes…hehe. So, so nice for you to invite us J. I hope we can treat you too while we’re visiting, like hosting you all out for some of the meals and hosting you at the museums, theatres and other attractions. Mr B had the nerve to record me snoring the other morning on his phone. We laughed until I cried. So there’s that, LOL. xoxox k

                • Jeff and Matt will go to bed early as usual and there could be a party going on downstairs and they would never know it. It really is amazing how soundproof it makes things, having that middle floor between. Now our York home sometimes feels a bit TOO cozy when we have guests, since we don’t have that buffer zone. I hope Jeff never records me snoring. I used to never snore but he says I sometimes do now. Must be the aging thing. (I will say, it’s convenient having aging to blame for everything.) Anyway, there’s lots of room to spread out downstairs, and a sofa sleeper in the den there, so if anyone is kept awake by snoring they can flee to another room.

                  • (( Julia )) ok, twist our rubber arms ❤

                    • 😀

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