In December 1776, General George Washington could taste failure on the banks of the frozen Delaware.
How could he get beyond his fears? How could he trust in that still small voice that silent ally to whom he regularly gave thanks both publicly and privately?
Everything in him wanted to give in and give up. Nonetheless, he must trust in, providence.
The task before him was simply too big for his ability and resources. The odds were against him, and he genuinely feared failure. The oppressive fear was knocking at the door of his courage. With a chilling certainty, a battle was raging in his mind — the burden of impossibility was almost overtaking him.
Again, Washington must fight those inner voices that would delight in his defeat. Once more, he must keep moving his soldiers to victory regardless of the overwhelming circumstances — harsh weather, lack of provisions, ammunition and the low morale of a shrinking army.
Washington began to draw from his past experiences, which had given him enormous common sense and a wordless instinct of how things work in the real world. Although he was not highly verbal nor an academic mind, for many years, his environment had taught him valuable lessons in human behavior.
In the past, Washington had studied the thinking of the British generals, the European monarchs, the manners of the Indians and the fur trappers on the American frontier.
Now, as a formidable general of the Continental Army, he had watched the inner passions of his own fighting men to learn about human reason — what is feared, what attracts and what motivates.
If he was to continue, this contemplative man must consider what he might say knowing that this address had to motivate his generals to a higher level of courage. Mindful of his fearful thoughts, he deliberated and began to calmly speak, “The only answer to fear is to face it with courage. We must refuse to bow to our fears. The only acceptable attitude toward fear is, ‘We will not fear!’ We have the power within us to move the impossible mountain and taste victory. We must have faith and not doubt!”
Christmas Eve night, Washington summoned his generals to devise the plan. Embedded with the army was Thomas Paine, a gifted writer of the incendiary pamphlet, “Common Sense”. He enlisted Paine to speak to his officers. Again, Paine’s emotional and inspirational words proved mightier than the sword, and the generals were motivated to action,
“These are times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country, but he that stands now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
At this moment, Washington’s genius lay not in his military expertise having lost every battle since the signing of the Declaration of Independence in July. His sheer cool determination began to coerce the support of his officers. Washington’s small morale-beaten, dwindling troops were certainly no match for the British well-trained professional force and the Hessians, German mercenaries.
Nevertheless, the evening’s discussions had sparked and renewed the desire for independence even if the attempt proved fatal. Now more than ever, a victory was needed.
Washington’s efforts touched his officers with renewed optimism.
In spite of the odds, a remarkable pervasive sense of exhilarating confidence aroused and energized them to continue the fight. As in the beginning of the Revolution, their imagined dreams of ending British tyranny and thoughts of released liberty were invigorated, and they were hopeful. Such united anticipation could not be contained on the ice-covered banks of the Delaware.
Washington’s courageous plan was to take the offensive and cross the Delaware on Christmas night and attack the Hessians garrison at Trenton, N.J. In those days, there were no bridges, and the roads to Trenton were rutted and impassable. The Durham boats, primarily the used to transport pig iron down the Delaware to the Philadelphia markets, were gathered earlier in the December as a defensive move. Now, they were to be used to move the troops and supplies.
Washington had several logistical concerns transporting 2,400 men, six ammunition wagons, eighteen cannons and 50-75 horses across the frozen river. A river like the Delaware was usually crossed by a ferry. The Durham boats were simply not designed to transfer masses of men and equipment. Thus, the boats and the ice floes on the river were natural barriers to an army on the move.
By 6 p.m., with sheer determination and muscles, a hardened group of sailors familiar with New England Nor’easters began rowing in a blinding snow storm back and forth across the ice-choked Delaware countless times. Against all odds, Washington and his men successfully completed the crossing and marched on the morning of Dec. 26, 1776. Washington and his army achieved a resounding victory over the Hessians, capturing more than 900 of them. By moving ahead with his bold and daring plan, General George Washington reignited the cause of freedom and gave new life to the American Revolution.
What are you battling? Has the emotional debris of 2013 left you struggling with feelings of doubt and uncertainty about the future? Are you shrouded by guilt, disappointments and discouraged by past failures? Just like Washington are you afraid of what the future holds?
No mortal really knows what the future holds, but we can trust in the God who does know. Sometimes I wonder why the future is not revealed to humans. Perhaps it is because we are to learn to trust our future to God who will work everything out for our ultimate good. If we face our future with courage, we will discover a reliable relationship the One who does knows the future.
Consider this, “Our personal battles are not external, but internal.” There is a spiritual battle occurring in our minds to defeat us, and fear is a direct result of those attitudes. It is a weapon used to prevent our progress. Overcoming our daunting fears with total faith in God will change our perceptions. Having confidence in God in the midst of turmoil can give you peace, courage, and motivation regardless. Independent from God our rationalizations, “That we can do it ourselves,” are simply lies that bombard our minds.
In 2014, we must allow God to lift the barricade in our self-sufficient, self-determined minds. Like Washington, however terrifying, we will experience a new freedom as we begin to trust God’s plan for our lives. Thus, we begin to defeat the battle that rages for our minds, and just like Washington and his troops victory will be ours!
“For surely I know the plans for you, says the Lord, plan for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with a hope,” as written in Jeremiah 29:11.