American liberty is no reprieve from adversity
June 15, 2015
As Independence Day draws closer, remember that our great nation was founded by resolute people of faith who persevered, despite seemingly insurmountable odds. That same spirit is required in citizens today if the U.S. is to continue to prosper and lead. People who understand the dynamic between faith and adversity develop a sense of purpose and indomitable strength. A citizenry composed of such people is a necessity for America to remain the land of liberty.
Our Declaration of Independence is a profound statement in which the founders asserted that all people are created equal and endowed by God with "unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." This is recognition of the freedom of each person to develop his or her own sense of purpose in life. But liberty is coupled with responsibility. To fulfill our purposes, we must each rise up to face the challenges and adversity that stand in our way.
Those who proclaimed our unalienable rights to the ruling British paid a heavy price. The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 men. Nine of them died during the War for Independence. Five became prisoners of war. All were driven from their homes. Yet these men did not give up. Gen. Washington and the Continental Army under his command didn't quit either. These individuals clung to their faith in God, grew in strength and unity, and ultimately secured liberty for generations of Americans.
Of course, liberty is never truly secure. As President Ronald Reagan said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction." All of us must shore up the spirit of Independence Day in our souls and instill that passion in our children. That's an impossible task for anyone who hasn't learned to overcome personal adversity. Those who feel no purpose and possess little faith are easily tempted to relinquish liberty in exchange for the promise that someone else — like government — will remove adversity from their lives.
Regardless of the amount of responsibility we assume in our lives, adverse circumstances such as death, illness, divorce and financial hardship are inescapable. Running from adversity is running from life itself. Yet many people sprint away from problems, especially since our culture fosters expectations of instant gratification and an attitude of "play now and pay later." It is impossible for human potential to be developed that way.
Every challenge and difficulty we successfully confront as individuals strengthens faith, confidence and sense of purpose. The Greek philosopher Herodotus said, "Adversity has the effect of drawing out strength and qualities of a man that would have lain dormant in the absence." When we respond personally and positively to challenges, we tap inner strength and faith and that molds our character.
It's easy to become mired in self-pity, hopelessness and bitterness. That's when faith is most critical. The vertical relationship between a human being and God allows acknowledgment of weakness in the moment, while trusting that he has good things in store. When this is coupled with the horizontal relationship we have with others in our community, we find tangible encouragement and support. Faith is the key to amazing new creations in the wake of terrible events and crushing circumstances.
It's often said that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. The choice to skip suffering is dependent on faith and courage to stand up and move forward with purpose. It takes extended periods of conscious effort to develop the traits to push aside fear and pain and prevail over our greatest challenges. Like John Wayne said, "Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway."
Today many of our political leaders insist that government is an equalizing force that will ease our personal struggles. At the same time, pop culture typically suggests that responsibility is not a requirement for life. Don't be led astray. No American should delegate his or her sense of purpose to someone else. And avoiding adversity condemns a person to a life of fear and vulnerability.
The struggle against adversity is like exercise for our faith. In turn, strong faith builds an invincible spirit. America's founders stood firm in the face of incredible adversity to "secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity." We must develop and maintain that same strength and resolve to make sure those blessings are passed intact to our posterity.
James D. Kellogg is a water resource engineer and the author of "Radical Action: A Colt Kelley Thriller". Look for the novel on amazon.com and visit JamesDKellogg.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.