If you have been reading the Steps To Self Governance Series so far, you will know that Step 1 is to take control of your own life or to choose your own way. Step 2 is to “predict your future”, that is, to create your life on paper, and then make it happen. Step 3, as you may have guessed, is to connect with God.
How does one actually connect with God? Well, you probably won’t find much about this in many self-help books or programs out there. But you will find an example from the pages of history in that of Abraham Lincoln. In order to help you understand what I mean by connecting with God, I’ll explain a little bit of his story during the apex of his life.
The Civil War
When Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States in 1860, he felt a heavy burden placed upon him. He asked friends and family to pray for him because he now had “a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington.” The nation was tearing at the seams, and Lincoln had put himself into the middle of it.
In 1861, war broke out between the Northern and Southern United States that would become the bloodiest and darkest war in American History. The newly elected president did not want war and did not want to end slavery for the southern states. But when the southern states broke away and the first shots were fired, he did what he felt was necessary to keep the Constitution and Union intact.
The conflict was instantly bloody and gruesome. Bodies of husbands and sons were coming home almost every day. Lincoln felt personally responsible for the death and destruction even though he was only trying to save the nation.
Devastation At Home
Then, on February 20, 1862, Lincoln was dealt a heavy blow. The president’s favorite son, Willie, suddenly contracted typhoid fever and died. Lincoln loved that boy. He would play with Willie when he was supposed to be in meetings. Willie looked like him, and Willie thought like him.
Lincoln became instantly lost. He fumbled into his secretary’s office and said, “My boy is gone- he is actually gone!” Lincoln then began to sob uncontrollably.
Unfortunately, this was not the only time that this would happen. Lincoln later said to a friend, “Ever since Willie’s death, I catch myself involuntarily talk to him, as if he were with me, and I feel he is.” [efn_note]Goodwin, Team of Rivals, 468.[/efn_note]
To make matters worse, his wife, Mary, became inconsolable, and would never recover. This was the second son that the Lincolns had lost, having lost their 3-year old Eddie years earlier.
As Abraham Lincoln’s life full of darkness and despair, he knew he needed to do something. The nation needed him, and he needed something to get him through.
Lincoln Turns To God
Lincoln began to turn to the scriptures and to fall on his knees.
Although he had been a God-fearing man all his life, Lincoln became desirous to know God and become “a humble instrument in the hands of our Heavenly Father.” [efn_note]Carwardine, Lincoln, 227.[/efn_note]
There was only one problem, however. Lincoln had told the nation that he would not end slavery. But, as Lincoln would come to realize, that position was clearly out of line with what God wanted. Over the next several months the war would rage on, continuing to claim American lives. Eventually, Lincoln reached an incredible realization which he wrote down in a personal memo in September 1862 entitled: “Meditation on the Divine Will.”
Divine Promise And Divine Aid
In the memo, Lincoln wrote, “In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party…I am almost ready to say this is probably true – that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet.”
As Lincoln pondered over these words that seemed to come to him from the Divine, he began earnestly praying for a sign and promised that if God would help the Union win in an upcoming battle, he would “consider it an indication of the Divine will, and that it was his duty to move forward in the cause of emancipation.” [efn_note]Carwardine, Lincoln, 210.[/efn_note]
What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. On September 13, 1862, General Lee gave a secret order to his army where he laid out his “Maryland Campaign.” As luck or Divine Intervention would have it, someone left their copy of the order wrapped around 3 cigars. General McClellan and his troops were passing through just after Lee and his army had left. The Union army was now up to speed on the Confederate’s plan, and they used it to their advantage which you can read more about here.
The Union claimed victory in the ensuing battle at Antietam, and it changed the course of the war. Soon after, Lincoln made good on his promise and issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862.
If We Want God’s Help…
The war continued on and Lincoln grew increasingly closer to the Divine. On one occasion, Lincoln made a comment to a congressman that has great application in our own lives. He said:
“I not only believe that Providence is not unmindful of the struggle in which this nation is engaged; that if we do not do right, God will let us go our own way to ruin; and that if we do right, He will lead us safely out of this wilderness, crown our arms with victory, and restore our dissevered union…”
He continued on- “I think He means that we shall do more than we have yet done in furtherance of His plans, and He will open the way for our doing it. I have felt His hand upon me in great trials and submitted to His guidance, and I trust that as he shall further open the way I will be ready to walk therein, relying on His help and trusting in His goodness and wisdom.” [efn_note]Don E. Fehrenbacher and Virginia Fehrenbacher, eds., Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln, 500.[/efn_note]
Connecting With God
When Lincoln was at one of the lowest points in his life, he determined that he needed to do something. He determined that he would act and be responsible for not only his destiny but the destiny of the nation (step 1). He then created a vision for himself (step 2) and determined that he would become an “instrument” in God’s hands to preserve the nation. In order to accomplish the vision, he connected with God (step 3).
Just as Lincoln did, in order to connect with God, you have to take an interest in Him and what He says – you have to learn about Him. That means studying the scriptures (Bible, Torah, Quran, whatever) to find out who He is and what He’s even about.
I’m not here to advocate for organized religion, although I do belong to one. I’m here to advocate for having a personal relationship with God. But, just like with any other relationship, you have to put some work into it before it will bear any fruit.
If you, like Lincoln, are in the darkest abyss of your life, God has the power to change that and lead you “out of the wilderness.” So as far as actionable items are concerned, 1) find out who God is through reading scripture and 2) pray and ask Him to reveal Himself to you and what He wants you to do.
So why does any of this matter? What does it matter if you believe in God or have a relationship with Him or not?
Think about Lincoln. Had he not turned to God, he would have remained in his awful state of despair over his lost son. His performance as Commander in Chief would have suffered greatly. He would have lost the election of 1864. The union would have lost the war and the evil stain of slavery would have continued to plague America.
The governance of Lincoln the man and the governance of the nation were at breaking points. Though things looked pretty bleak for both Lincoln and the nation, God worked miracles and, as Lincoln said, “open[ed] the way.” In order to weather the storms that will come into our lives and the life of our nation, we must have that relationship and be willing to do what God asks.