This being the 4th of July season, I, along with many people around the country, have been thinking a lot about the history behind our independence and the men who made it possible. These were truly great individuals, living at a truly great time. They stood up to proclaim the right of all men to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness under a government that would respect and promote those rights, leaving its people as free as possible to seek the goodness of God and the comforts of prosperity.
Thinking about their accomplishments, however, I was surprised to realize how many terrifying unknowns these people must have faced. They were, on the basis of deeply felt personal convictions and not much else, going up against the greatest superpower of the age, with the largest, best trained, and best equipped army and navy of the age. Not only were the Founding Fathers strapped for resources, (in contrast to the British, we had no navy, no regular army, and no money), but their political ideas had never before been tested on the scale they imagined, and were in direct opposition to the beliefs of most of the civilized world. Even the British, DANGEROUSLY libertarian and republican by European standards, had never taken the ideals of liberty and self-government under God as far as the Founders envisioned. The Founding Fathers, however, in the face of all the unknowns, turned to Someone they knew they could rely on. Jefferson articulated this faith in the final sentence of the Declaration of Independence. “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Our Founders, even supposed Deists like Jefferson, knew what they were up against. They knew that, in the eyes of the world, sheer firepower made their cause hopeless. But they believed that their fight for liberty had a basis in more than just recent philosophy. They were men of the Scriptures, who believed that they found in God's Word the original, divine proclamation that all men were created in His image, and therefore entitled to freedom and dignity. They were willing to stake everything on those ideals because they relied on the God who is their ultimate source, and who would give them strength to defend the right, no matter what the odds.
In many ways, albeit on a smaller scale, we all experience this kind of uncertainty. For the disabled, it can be particularly intense. As I'm preparing to head off to college, I know and my parents know how tough this anxiety can be. Will I be able to overcome basic physical challenges? Will I make friends? Will I be able to function in the classroom? People with unique challenges face unique unknowns every day. But, in facing the unknown, we can take a cue from Paul, who reminds us that “neither height nor depth...nor angels nor demons...nor anything else in all Creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” If we rely on this promise as much as the Founding Fathers did, we have nothing to fear.