Tag Archives: Endurance

For Independence Day, let’s learn about George Washington and the Battle of Trenton

Washington crosses the Delaware river before the Battle of Trenton
Washington crosses the Delaware river before the Battle of Trenton

My favorite book about the American Revolutionary war by far is called “1776”. It’s written by famous historian David McCullough. The part of the book that really stuck out to me was the Battle of Trenton. I think that this battle really defines the essential character of America, as seen in the decision-making of its great general and first President, George Washington.

In the book, I learned about how George Washington and his revolutionary army had suffered a string of defeats at the hands of the powerful Commonwealth army, and their mercenary allies. It was the middle of a freezing cold winter, and the many of the sickly and ill-equipped American troops were just days from having their enlistment contracts run out. Some of the troops were not waiting for their enlistments to expire, they were just deserting. In droves.

Washington was losing, and was just days from losing his Continental Army. If the Americans lost the revolutionary war, then it would mean that every man who signed the Declaration of Independence would be hanged as a traitor. The American revolutionaries had risked everything for liberty, and they were about to lose everything – their money, their property and even their lives.

I found a page that summarizes the battles leading up to the Battle of Trenton.

First battle, a defeat for Washington:

The Battle of White Plains

October 28, 1776

RESULT: BRITISH VICTORY

With the British army maneuvering to make his Harlem Heights position untenable, George Washington withdrew from the island of Manhattan, and established a new encampment further north near White Plains, New York.

On October 28, 1776, a flank attack by the British on this new position resulted in the collapse of Washington’s line. Thankfully, he was able to orchestrate an orderly withdrawal that preserved the army. Unfortunately, Washington’s retreat further exposed Fort Washington, which remained garrisoned on Manhattan.

Next, another defeat for Washington:

The Battle of Fort Washington

November 16, 1776

RESULT: BRITISH VICTORY

Following the defeat of George Washington’s army at White Plains, New York, British General William Howe focused his army’s attention on Fort Washington, the last post defended by the Continental army on Manhattan.  Although Washington hoped to abandon the fort, his officers convinced him that it needed to be held in order to keep British ships from ascending the Hudson River.

During a carefully-orchestrated, all-out attack on November 16, 1776, British and Hessian forces overwhelmed the fort’s garrison after vicious fighting. When he heard the attack begin, Washington, who had stationed himself across the Hudson River in New Jersey, travelled across the river to the enter the fort and personally inspect its defenses. Several officers accompanied Washington, including Generals Israel Putnam, Hugh Mercer, and Nathanael Greene. They convinced Washington to leave the fort just 30 minutes before it was surrounded.

And then, another defeat for Washington:

Evacuation of Fort Lee

November 20, 1776

RESULT: BRITISH VICTORY

After the fall of Fort Washington, George Washington made plans for the evacuation of Fort Lee, which stood across the Hudson River in New Jersey. In a letter written to John Hancock on November 19, 1776, the general wrote that “…Fort Lee was always considered as only necessary in conjunction with [Fort Washington]…,” and that it would be abandoned as soon as provisions and other supplies were removed.

Unfortunately, a large British force succeeded in scaling the heights close to the fort on November 20, 1776. Faced with superior numbers, Washington called for the immediate evacuation of the fort, which resulted in the loss of dozens of cannon, 2-300 tents, and 1,000 barrels of flour.

That brings us to the Battle of Trenton. Across the Delaware river from Washington’s army was an encampment of Hessian mercenaries, fighting for the British. The Hessians believed that Washington’s Continental army was in full retreat. The British generals had already written home to the King to tell him that the war was nearly over, and that they had won. But had they?

Washington crosses the Delaware

Here is what Washington decided to do on December 25th, 1776:

General George Washington’s commitment to cross the Delaware River on Christmas 1776 foreshadowed the many hardships faced as well as the eventual victory of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. At first glance, the decision to transport 2,400 Continental soldiers across an icy river in one night, directly into a severe winter storm of sleet and snow seems irrational.

Washington’s decision, however, was based on strategic motivation, understanding that the Continental Army desperately needed a victory after months of intense fighting with several significant defeats and no major victories. Washington also understood that the element of surprise was the only way that he and his army stood a chance of defeating the highly trained Hessian mercenaries.

On the morning of December 25, 1776, Continental soldiers woke up in their camps along the Delaware River to a frozen, snowy covered ground. Weather conditions worsened and temperatures continued to drop throughout the day. Late in the afternoon, the Continentals left their tents and began to form along the river in anticipation of the night’s events. Washington kept almost all of the details of the crossing a secret; as a result, none of the soldiers knew anything about their upcoming mission.

Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River on December 25, 1776 allowed his army to strike the Hessians at Trenton the next morning.

Washington’s plan was to cross the river at night, march to the nearby town of Trenton, New Jersey, and attack the Hessian garrison right before dawn. Time was Washington’s greatest enemy; to combat it his orders called for the various regiments to assemble at their designated crossing points no later than sunset. The close proximity to the crossing points allowed the soldiers to begin the journey immediately after nightfall struck and complete the crossing no later than midnight. Once across, Washington intended for the armies to reassemble and march approximately ten miles to Trenton, arriving there no later than five o’clock in the morning to achieve surprise. Despite his meticulous planning, the schedule failed almost before it even began.

Many of the regiments did not arrive at the river until well after dark. Additionally, a severe winter storm that included wind, rain, snow, hail, and sleet met the soldiers at the banks of the river significantly slowing their crossing. Many of the boats had to combat ice jams and unfavorable currents. To make matters even worse, the extreme darkness caused by the storm made it hard for the boatmen to see the opposite shore.

The necessity of using larger ferries to carry pieces of artillery across the river caused even more delays. Washington crossed the river with John Glover’s Marblehead mariners and upon arrival debated whether or not to cancel the entire operation because it was more than three hours behind schedule. Washington decided it was too costly to retreat and he painfully watched as his army continued to trickle across the river.

If you were standing by the river along with Washington watching his sick, frozen, ill-equipped army struggle across the Delaware, then you would probably think that Washington had lost the element of surprise. This attack was just taking too long to happen. Maybe Washington would give up his plan, because things hadn’t gone his way. But Washington didn’t quit – he persisted.

The Battle of Trenton, December 25, 1776
The Battle of Trenton, December 25, 1776 (click for larger image)

The Battle of Trenton

This is how the battle went down in Trenton, New Jersey:

Immediately following his famous crossing of the Delaware River, General George Washington marched the Continental Army to Trenton, New Jersey. The army’s forces included horses, guns, wagons, and soldiers, stretching for nearly one mile. The weather was worse than it had been crossing the river, but the army continued to proceed as Washington rode up and down the column pressing his men to carry on.

Shortly after eight o’clock on the morning of December 26, 1776, the Continental Army started its charge on the city. Three columns marched through thick snow with Washington personally leading the middle charge. As the soldiers pushed forward, artillery began to fire. At the same time, German drums urgently called the Hessians to arms. To his astonishment, Washington had maintained the element of surprise.

Immediately after the firing began, three Hessian regiments ran from their quarters ready to fight, quickly forming ranks. As the Hessians grouped, the Continental Army entered the city at two points: John Stark marched into the city on River Road from the west, while Nathanael Greene and Washington arrived from the north.

Andreas von Wiederholdt, a Hessian lieutenant, incorrectly reported to Colonel Johann Rall that the Continental Army had surrounded Trenton and there was no available route for retreat. As a result, Rall decided to counterattack Washington within the city and not retreat across Assunpink Creek. This proved to be costly as Washington’s forces occupied the highest ground in the city and had clear views of all of Rall’s movements.

Time after time, Washington countered Rall’s efforts to outflank the Continentals. Eventually, Washington’s forces overpowered the Hessians. Rall was mortally wounded and many of his soldiers broke ranks, fleeing from the fighting. Normally very disciplined, Rall’s regiment was confused and disoriented without their commander. They retreated to an orchard east of Trenton where they were forced to surrender.

Despite the large number of Hessians that escaped Trenton, Washington still won a crucial strategic and material victory. In only one hour of fighting, the Continental Army captured nearly nine hundred Hessian officers and soldiers as well as a large supply of muskets, bayonets, swords, and cannons. Washington ordered his soldiers to treat the Hessian prisoners in a humane manner, and the general quickly focused his attention on what to do next. Washington assembled all of his officers in Trenton to discuss whether they should attack another post, hold their position in Trenton, or retreat back across the Delaware. Washington decided that because of the condition of his army, the best move was to return to their camps across the River.

When the Continental Army returned to camp on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, soldiers were exhausted. They had marched and fought for two straight days through rain, snow, sleet, and hail. Washington knew that his army had far exceeded expectations at Trenton and that they faced many more challenges going forward.

Washington won two more battles in rapid succession. Many of his troops re-enlisted because of these victories. There were many battles remaining to fight, and many hardships such as the winter at Valley Forge. But the Battle of Trenton was the turning point of the revolution. George Washington would not let a string of defeats stop him.

Three reasons why Christians should read military history

Robert Trimble, standing second from the left, in front of his B-24 Liberator
Robert Trimble, standing second from the left, in front of his B-24 Liberator

I was sharing with the administrator of memes on our Facebook page recently how disappointed I was in public schools teaching children a distorted view of American history, such that they hate their country. As a result, children of today think too much of their own values and abilities, and they have no gratitude for those who went before, like our Founders and our armed forces.

Well, I am reading “Citizen Soldiers: The U. S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany” right now, but I wanted to talk to you about the book I just finished, which is called “Beyond The Call: The True Story of One World War II Pilot’s Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front”. It’s about a World War 2 heavy bomber pilot who completes 35 missions, and then goes into the Soviet Union (our allies, at the time) to rescue American POWs who were starving or being kidnapped or murdered by the Soviet secret police.

I found a very good article about it from Stripes, to just quickly introduce the story:

Later, after making contact with POWs roaming the Polish countryside, [Capt. Robert Trimble] fully embraced his mission. He saw the desperate plight of those who had been liberated from Third Reich prison camps. Many were sick, emaciated, often clothed in rags and left to fend for themselves during a brutally harsh winter.

Trimble risked his life numerous times over six weeks, helping to rescue hundreds of POWs. He came to the aid of others, too. In one daring rescue, nearly foiled by Russian agents who had become suspicious of his activities, Trimble helped 400 French women make it out of Poland and back to France.

Although he was being constantly trailed by Russian spies and informers, he would evade them, and bring food and money to the POWs, then put them on a train to Odessa, Ukraine, where they could get onto a ship going home.

Why I read military history

It is hard to develop virtues just by wishing and hoping. Something has to go into your mind that causes you to think differently, and feel differently. Everything that you watch on TV, hear on the radio, or see in the movie theater, is made by secular leftists. They aren’t trying to build your moral character. They’re goal is to break down your resistance to their unBiblical worldview and moral values. Instead of giving people who hate Jesus your money, just so you can be entertained, why not try to put something in front of your eyes that will make you better?

Look at this famous passage from the Bible.

Romans 12:1-2:

1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

And also this from Philippians, my favorite book of the Bible.

Philippians 4:8:

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

So you can see that when I am reading, my goal is to work on my character. I want to have feelings about things that are appropriate for a Christian man.

So why military history? Here are three reasons why I read these military history books.

Humility

First, humility. Humility used to be one of my biggest challenges. So I thought to myself “instead of seeing yourself as some heroic figure, why don’t you read about some real heroes… people who willingly gave their lives for their friends, like the Bible urges, and like Jesus did by example”.

Remember this from John 15:13?

13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

Military history is filled with stories of courage, bravery, self-sacrifice, endurance, unselfishness, and many other virtues. When you read about people who are better than you, doing more important things than what you’re doing, it really helps you to be humble.

The best thing for humility is reading Medal of Honor citations. You can find a bunch of them online here. And if you want a book to read, try these books about Medal of Honor recipients:

Endurance

Second, endurance. I sometimes feel badly about not having found someone to marry and not having lots of children. I wanted a good marriage to be a model for others, and also to have an influence in the next generation through my children. However, whenever I read military history, I see a lot of young men dying in battle. And I think, they too won’t know what sex is like. And, they too won’t know what marriage is like. And, they too won’t know what having children is like. But it’s not just the ones who die, it’s the hardships they have to go through, as well. Cold, hunger, imprisonment, pain, loss of their friends, etc.

I remember reading about one of my favorite battles – probably the most famous battle of the Korean War, which is our most moral war. It’s about Fox Company of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division. They had to hold a hill beside a vital road against overwhelming numbers of Chinese soldiers during the freezing cold North Korean winter. I remember reading about how one soldier got up to go to the bathroom, and was nearly shot by a sniper. He fell over on his own poop, which had already frozen by the time it hit the ground. For months after, I would always think about this whenever I went into a bathroom. We have pre-warmed water in our bathrooms at work, along with soap, lysol spray, febreeze, contact lense cleaner, hand sanitizer, and other things. Just understanding what other people have to go through in war helps me to be more patient with the little tiny setbacks that I experience. I used to get very anxious when anything went wrong, because of I was raised by strict immigrant parents. That anxiety seemed to last a long time, but since I started to read military history, I’ve been much more patient. I know that things could be worse.

Thankfulness

The third thing that I’ve experienced is thankfulness. Not just for all the things that I have because of what our armed forces have done, e.g. – basic human rights, prosperity, liberty, security, etc. But also specifically about those who gave their lives so that I could live free in a free country, and practice my Christian faith without fear.

Here are two of my favorite Medal of Honor stories from World War 2, in the Battle of Pearl Harbor:

Congressional Medal of Honor
Awarded Posthumously
PETER TOMICH

Rank and organization: Chief Watertender, U.S. Navy.
Place and date: Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.
Born: 3 June 1893, Prolog, Austria.

Although realizing that the ship was capsizing as a result of enemy bombing and torpedoing, Tomich remained at his post in the engineering plant of the U.S.S. Utah, until he saw that all boilers were secured and all fireroom personnel had left their stations, and by so doing lost his own life.

And:

Congressional Medal of Honor
Awarded Posthumously
JAMES RICHARD WARD

Rank and organization: Seaman First Class, U.S. Navy.
Place and date: Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941.
Born: 10 September 1921, Springfield, Ohio.

When it was seen that the U.S.S. Oklahoma was going to capsize and the order was given to abandon ship, Ward remained in a turret holding a flashlight so the remainder of the turret crew could see to escape, thereby sacrificing his own life.

I do think that it’s important for Christians to read these kinds of stories in order to feed their own awareness of what it must have been like for Jesus to give his life voluntarily for us.

There is no shortcut to gratitude. You have to constantly reflect on the sacrifices made by others for you, if you are to have any concrete reason for feeling grateful. The more you read about examples of people giving their lives for others, the more you’ll appreciate what Jesus did for you. It will make you grateful.

There is a very annoying idea out there in the culture that says that people just do whatever is easy and fun for themselves, and since everyone else is always doing what makes them feel good, then there is no need to be thankful for anything. It’s comforting for people to delude themselves with that belief, but it’s false.

My reading list

You can check out the “What I am Reading” section of the blogto see which military history books I’ve been reading.

For Independence Day, let’s learn about George Washington and the Battle of Trenton

Washington crosses the Delaware river before the Battle of Trenton
Washington crosses the Delaware river before the Battle of Trenton

My favorite book about the American Revolutionary war by far is called “1776”. It’s written by famous historian David McCullough. The part of the book that really stuck out to me was the Battle of Trenton. I think that this battle really defines the essential character of America, as seen in the decision-making of its great general and first President, George Washington.

In the book, I learned about how George Washington and his revolutionary army had suffered a string of defeats at the hands of the powerful Commonwealth army, and their mercenary allies. It was the middle of a freezing cold winter, and the many of the sickly and ill-equipped American troops were just days from having their enlistment contracts run out. Some of the troops were not waiting for their enlistments to expire, they were just deserting. In droves.

Washington was losing, and was just days from losing his Continental Army. If the Americans lost the revolutionary war, then it would mean that every man who signed the Declaration of Independence would be hanged as a traitor. The American revolutionaries had risked everything for liberty, and they were about to lose everything – their money, their property and even their lives.

I found a page that summarizes the battles leading up to the Battle of Trenton.

First battle, a defeat for Washington:

The Battle of White Plains

October 28, 1776

RESULT: BRITISH VICTORY

With the British army maneuvering to make his Harlem Heights position untenable, George Washington withdrew from the island of Manhattan, and established a new encampment further north near White Plains, New York.

On October 28, 1776, a flank attack by the British on this new position resulted in the collapse of Washington’s line. Thankfully, he was able to orchestrate an orderly withdrawal that preserved the army. Unfortunately, Washington’s retreat further exposed Fort Washington, which remained garrisoned on Manhattan.

Next, another defeat for Washington:

The Battle of Fort Washington

November 16, 1776

RESULT: BRITISH VICTORY

Following the defeat of George Washington’s army at White Plains, New York, British General William Howe focused his army’s attention on Fort Washington, the last post defended by the Continental army on Manhattan.  Although Washington hoped to abandon the fort, his officers convinced him that it needed to be held in order to keep British ships from ascending the Hudson River.

During a carefully-orchestrated, all-out attack on November 16, 1776, British and Hessian forces overwhelmed the fort’s garrison after vicious fighting. When he heard the attack begin, Washington, who had stationed himself across the Hudson River in New Jersey, travelled across the river to the enter the fort and personally inspect its defenses. Several officers accompanied Washington, including Generals Israel Putnam, Hugh Mercer, and Nathanael Greene. They convinced Washington to leave the fort just 30 minutes before it was surrounded.

And then, another defeat for Washington:

Evacuation of Fort Lee

November 20, 1776

RESULT: BRITISH VICTORY

After the fall of Fort Washington, George Washington made plans for the evacuation of Fort Lee, which stood across the Hudson River in New Jersey. In a letter written to John Hancock on November 19, 1776, the general wrote that “…Fort Lee was always considered as only necessary in conjunction with [Fort Washington]…,” and that it would be abandoned as soon as provisions and other supplies were removed.

Unfortunately, a large British force succeeded in scaling the heights close to the fort on November 20, 1776. Faced with superior numbers, Washington called for the immediate evacuation of the fort, which resulted in the loss of dozens of cannon, 2-300 tents, and 1,000 barrels of flour.

That brings us to the Battle of Trenton. Across the Delaware river from Washington’s army was an encampment of Hessian mercenaries, fighting for the British. The Hessians believed that Washington’s Continental army was in full retreat. The British generals had already written home to the King to tell him that the war was nearly over, and that they had won. But had they?

Washington crosses the Delaware

Here is what Washington decided to do on December 25th, 1776:

General George Washington’s commitment to cross the Delaware River on Christmas 1776 foreshadowed the many hardships faced as well as the eventual victory of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. At first glance, the decision to transport 2,400 Continental soldiers across an icy river in one night, directly into a severe winter storm of sleet and snow seems irrational.

Washington’s decision, however, was based on strategic motivation, understanding that the Continental Army desperately needed a victory after months of intense fighting with several significant defeats and no major victories. Washington also understood that the element of surprise was the only way that he and his army stood a chance of defeating the highly trained Hessian mercenaries.

On the morning of December 25, 1776, Continental soldiers woke up in their camps along the Delaware River to a frozen, snowy covered ground. Weather conditions worsened and temperatures continued to drop throughout the day. Late in the afternoon, the Continentals left their tents and began to form along the river in anticipation of the night’s events. Washington kept almost all of the details of the crossing a secret; as a result, none of the soldiers knew anything about their upcoming mission.

Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River on December 25, 1776 allowed his army to strike the Hessians at Trenton the next morning.

Washington’s plan was to cross the river at night, march to the nearby town of Trenton, New Jersey, and attack the Hessian garrison right before dawn. Time was Washington’s greatest enemy; to combat it his orders called for the various regiments to assemble at their designated crossing points no later than sunset. The close proximity to the crossing points allowed the soldiers to begin the journey immediately after nightfall struck and complete the crossing no later than midnight. Once across, Washington intended for the armies to reassemble and march approximately ten miles to Trenton, arriving there no later than five o’clock in the morning to achieve surprise. Despite his meticulous planning, the schedule failed almost before it even began.

Many of the regiments did not arrive at the river until well after dark. Additionally, a severe winter storm that included wind, rain, snow, hail, and sleet met the soldiers at the banks of the river significantly slowing their crossing. Many of the boats had to combat ice jams and unfavorable currents. To make matters even worse, the extreme darkness caused by the storm made it hard for the boatmen to see the opposite shore.

The necessity of using larger ferries to carry pieces of artillery across the river caused even more delays. Washington crossed the river with John Glover’s Marblehead mariners and upon arrival debated whether or not to cancel the entire operation because it was more than three hours behind schedule. Washington decided it was too costly to retreat and he painfully watched as his army continued to trickle across the river.

If you were standing by the river along with Washington watching his sick, frozen, ill-equipped army struggle across the Delaware, then you would probably think that Washington had lost the element of surprise. This attack was just taking too long to happen. Maybe Washington would give up his plan, because things hadn’t gone his way. But Washington didn’t quit – he persisted.

The Battle of Trenton, December 25, 1776
The Battle of Trenton, December 25, 1776 (click for larger image)

The Battle of Trenton

This is how the battle went down in Trenton, New Jersey:

Immediately following his famous crossing of the Delaware River, General George Washington marched the Continental Army to Trenton, New Jersey. The army’s forces included horses, guns, wagons, and soldiers, stretching for nearly one mile. The weather was worse than it had been crossing the river, but the army continued to proceed as Washington rode up and down the column pressing his men to carry on.

Shortly after eight o’clock on the morning of December 26, 1776, the Continental Army started its charge on the city. Three columns marched through thick snow with Washington personally leading the middle charge. As the soldiers pushed forward, artillery began to fire. At the same time, German drums urgently called the Hessians to arms. To his astonishment, Washington had maintained the element of surprise.

Immediately after the firing began, three Hessian regiments ran from their quarters ready to fight, quickly forming ranks. As the Hessians grouped, the Continental Army entered the city at two points: John Stark marched into the city on River Road from the west, while Nathanael Greene and Washington arrived from the north.

Andreas von Wiederholdt, a Hessian lieutenant, incorrectly reported to Colonel Johann Rall that the Continental Army had surrounded Trenton and there was no available route for retreat. As a result, Rall decided to counterattack Washington within the city and not retreat across Assunpink Creek. This proved to be costly as Washington’s forces occupied the highest ground in the city and had clear views of all of Rall’s movements.

Time after time, Washington countered Rall’s efforts to outflank the Continentals. Eventually, Washington’s forces overpowered the Hessians. Rall was mortally wounded and many of his soldiers broke ranks, fleeing from the fighting. Normally very disciplined, Rall’s regiment was confused and disoriented without their commander. They retreated to an orchard east of Trenton where they were forced to surrender.

Despite the large number of Hessians that escaped Trenton, Washington still won a crucial strategic and material victory. In only one hour of fighting, the Continental Army captured nearly nine hundred Hessian officers and soldiers as well as a large supply of muskets, bayonets, swords, and cannons. Washington ordered his soldiers to treat the Hessian prisoners in a humane manner, and the general quickly focused his attention on what to do next. Washington assembled all of his officers in Trenton to discuss whether they should attack another post, hold their position in Trenton, or retreat back across the Delaware. Washington decided that because of the condition of his army, the best move was to return to their camps across the River.

When the Continental Army returned to camp on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, soldiers were exhausted. They had marched and fought for two straight days through rain, snow, sleet, and hail. Washington knew that his army had far exceeded expectations at Trenton and that they faced many more challenges going forward.

Washington won two more battles in rapid succession. Many of his troops re-enlisted because of these victories. There were many battles remaining to fight, and many hardships such as the winter at Valley Forge. But the Battle of Trenton was the turning point of the revolution. George Washington would not let a string of defeats stop him.

Max Andrews writes about the blessings of suffering

From Max’s blog Sententia. (H/T Fred W.)

Except:

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in May 2004 at the end of my Junior year of high school. Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease and mine happens to be in my terminal ileum at the end of my small intestine.  When I first went to the emergency room seven years ago I felt like someone had reached into my gut and started twisting my organs around while I was digesting glass.  It was, and is, extremely painful and nauseating.  It was about the sixth day in the hospital when the doctor diagnosed me.  I wept once he left the room because I knew that this had ruined my life dreams of serving in the U.S. Army as an intelligence analyst.  Well, seven years later I can look at this disease and honestly say that it has been one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me.

I’ve had a flare up (reoccurrence) about once a year since I was first diagnosed.  I refused long-term medication for a while since it started out as a mild case and medication wouldn’t allow me to join the Army.  I graduated high school and took a year off before going to college so I could work with the Army and doctors so I could enlist.  My attempts fell short and I could not overturn or appeal my medical disqualification.  It had been my dream since I was a young child.  I have a very patriotic family and both of my grandfathers served.  My mother’s father was an NCO in the U.S. Air Force around the Korean War and worked with nuclear bombs.  My father’s father was an officer in the U.S. Navy and served on the U.S.S. Dauphin. I felt it was my duty to serve my country.  I excelled in J.R.O.T.C. in high school as the Battalion Commander, the leader of over 250 other cadets and I was one of the most decorated (if not the most decorated) cadets in the school’s history.  I studied government until my second semester sophomore year of college.  I knew then that I was called to something greater; I knew that God had a specific purpose for me and his purpose was greater than anything I could have planned for.  I then became an undergraduate biblical studies student and I’m now a philosophy graduate student.  However, these are peripheral details that resulted from my Crohn’s.  The blessing is so much greater than any classes I’ve ever taken.

God used Crohn’s to alter the course of my life.  This one event was a catalyst for so many changes.  Since getting Crohn’s I have gotten saved. Since being saved I started asking myself the deeper questions of life and existence, which led me to study philosophy.  My relationship with God continually grows and I think about God throughout the entire day.  There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about God or ask him questions about him and existence.  God has used Crohn’s as a means to demonstrate my purpose in life.  Well, it’s not so much that I know my meta-purpose, so to speak, but it’s a way that God has shown me that I do have purpose and meaning. When I think about the way my life would have been without Crohn’s I don’t believe I would appreciate my existence and God’s work as much as I do now; because of that I have no problem believing Crohn’s is a gift from God.

Please read the whole post, there’s more to it. It shows you how Christians think about suffering in a completely different way from non-Christians. We think that suffering can be valuable if a person endures it well and learns from it.

A hero’s legacy: Happy birthday, William Wilberforce

August 24th was the 250th birthday of the official hero of the Wintery Knight blog, William Wilberforce.

Chuck Colson wrote about it. (H/T Andrew)

Excerpt:

Today marks the 250th birthday of William Wilberforce, the Christian statesman who, for 18 arduous years, led the crusade against the abominable British slave trade. And I can think of no better gift I could give my listeners than to tell you about some of the traits that made Wilberforce a man who profoundly changed history-and whose legacy so profoundly shaped my life.

To speak of Wilberforce is to speak of biblical worldview in action. When Wilberforce, one of the youngest members of Parliament, came to Christ, he contemplated leaving office and becoming a clergyman.

Thankfully, William Pitt, who went on to be Great Britain’s youngest prime minister, convinced him otherwise. In a letter to his dear friend, Pitt wrote: “Surely the principles as well as the practice of Christianity are simple and lead not to meditation only, but to action.”

And indeed, for Wilberforce, Christian faith meant action. He could not stand idly by and see the imago Dei of each person, the image of God, abused. His fiercely unpopular crusade against the slave trade ravaged his health and cost him politically. He endured verbal assaults and was even challenged to a duel by an angry slave-ship captain.

And when the French Revolution began, what had been merely an unpopular position became a dangerous one. As cries of liberty, equality, and fraternity erupted across the Channel, Wilberforce and his fellow abolitionists who believed so strongly in human equality were suddenly viewed with suspicion by the British people.

Nonetheless, Wilberforce persevered year after year. Writing about whether to give up the fight, Wilberforce notes, “a man who fears God is not at liberty” to do so.

What Christianity teaches is that every person in the world was made by God for the purpose of responding freely to him. Your job as a Christian is to help everyone who wants to freely respond to God to do so.