150 years ago today, the Union, if it was going to succeed in stopping the Confederates from splitting the nation in two, had to get its troops deep within the southern states. They needed to divide the Southerners instead of letting them divide the nation. The first step in doing so was to open a water route into the Confederate heartland, and the only things in the way were two forts: Fort Henry and Fort Donelson.
The Confederates, while fighting hard, had inadequate supplies and ultimately had to surrender. The Union went through, captured the prisoners, and took out everything that could be used against them – except one key place, the railroad bridge in Florence, Alabama. The Confederates used the railroad bridge extensively two months later in the major battle of Shiloh. While the Union won that battle too, it was very close, and it looked at many points like it would go the other way. Many lives could have been saved, if only, in the victories two months prior, they had taken out the railroad bridge in Florence.
It is easy when facing adversity to look back and think, “If only I had done X” or “we had done Y” or “someone we love had done Z,” it could have gone far differently. X, Y, and Z can indeed have an important purpose if we learn from them. God doesn’t give us memories to make us suffer. Even negative experiences can have a purpose if we learn from them or help others learn from them. After Florence the Union Army, for example, didn’t leave key railroad bridges again for its enemy to continue to use.
It is also easy to believe that adversity is a key indicator of God being unhappy with us. “If only we had made better decisions, then God would be blessing us.” Adversity must be a “sign from God” that we are making errors. But the only problem with such thought is that it goes directly against the biblical witness of life. Jesus taught us that the rain falls on the just and unjust. He also taught that the tower can fall on folks who were not in error. It is just part of life. Even Jesus, the only human being who never sinned, faced significant adversity in life.
It is never ‘if ‘but rather ‘when’ we will face adversity. It comes to all of us in the course of life and often in comes in multiple forms. But the real question facing us is how we will respond to adversity. Will we work together through it, or will we let it get the best of us?
We may face setbacks, but God didn’t create us to fail.
What do you think?
Until next time,