And yet be determined

D-Day troops suffered ten times more casualties than their enemies, but they managed to turn the tide of the war. National World War II Memorial, Washington, DC, March 2005.

D-Day troops suffered ten times more casualties than their enemies,
but nonetheless managed to turn the tide of the war.
National World War II Memorial, Washington, DC, March 2005.

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

For most of us, life is full of ethical conundrums; questions and dilemmas to which there are no easy answers.  Nowhere is this more evident than in warfare.  It seems counter-intuitive that war can bring about peace; that the taking of some human lives is necessary to prevent the deaths of many more. To the soldier, these questions become almost unbearably consequential.  How does one balance the duties to home, family and friends against the duty to serve one’s country even to the point of death?

Regardless of how any of us resolves such dilemmas for ourselves, I think Fitzgerald has a point when he says that we must retain the ability to function in the face of them.  Daily we are bombarded with dismal stories of tragedy and trouble all over the world, yet we are also surrounded with the lights of hope, faith and love that shine in countless people we know personally, or only learned about from other sources.

It’s easy, and almost inevitable, to feel hopeless at times.  But even in such situations, we still can refuse to give up.  People have been accomplishing seemingly impossible things for centuries by holding fast to courage and faith when logic defies the efficacy of either.

When two opposing ideas are battling it out in my mind, I often find that I do better to ignore the argument and go about taking whatever positive steps I can, doing what I know to be right without becoming distracted by useless agitation.  Difficult questions abound, but they need not obscure the more obvious daily decisions I am capable of making regardless of larger issues over which I have no control.

Today, whatever problems and difficulties may arise, I hope we will retain the ability to function despite the external circumstances.  We know we can do it, because we do it every day, despite the times when we feel that we cannot keep going.  Even when it appears hopeless, we can almost always find reason for hope.

One year ago today:

We must free ourselves

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Good morning, Julia!
    Every morning, I try to read the Upper Room and Defeat Despair. Today was perfect, in how they fit together.
    Call out to God, and do what we can.
    It’s good advice! Thank you, Julia.
    Love and blessings to you!

    • Susan, thanks for sharing this devotional. I am far too late getting to these comments, but sometimes when I am, there is a nice “surprise” or two waiting for me, such as this one, that I seem to read at times when I most need them. My own post that day (to which you are commenting here) had been scheduled so far ahead that I had pretty much forgotten about it, but it was a good one for me to read this Lord’s Day morning. Thanks for being here!

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