According to his website, “H. W. Brands was born in Oregon, went to college in California, sold cutlery across the American West, and earned graduate degrees in mathematics and history in Oregon and Texas. He taught at Vanderbilt University and Texas A&M University before joining the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, where he currently holds the Jack S. Blanton Chair in History.”
In his essay entitled, “Genius in the Making,” in the journal, Lincoln’s Genius, Dr. Brands wrote (p. 6):
Lincoln understood the cost of what he accomplished; he would have been the last to wish it thought that his achievements came without effort. Joshua Speed, who rented a room above his store to Lincoln on Lincoln’s arrival in Springfield, recalled a moment from those early days when everything seemed to be going wrong for his friend. ‘He was so much depressed that he almost contemplated suicide,’ Speed recounted. ‘He said to me that he had done nothing to make any human being remember that he had lived, and that to connect his name with the events transpiring in his day and generation and so impress himself upon them as to link his name with something that would redound to the interest of his fellow man was what he desired to live for.’ Lincoln eventually achieved his desire, and the achievement was the greater for what it cost him.
Abraham Lincoln’s steadfastness of life reminds us of the Christ’s commitment to His task of bringing redemption to the world. When Christ called us to be His followers, He called us to a life of service and sacrifice. While many of us find ourselves fatigued, discouraged and depressed at times, we need to be reminded that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The great Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, is a good reminder of what may happen when we convince ourselves that our perspective, our solutions and our intellect are all we need in life. Can you imagine our nation today had Abraham Lincoln decided to take his own life during a low point in his journey? Every life is valuable and irreplaceable. Can you imagine where we would be if we chose to lean upon our own understanding rather than to trust in the Lord with all our heart? Proverbs 14:12 reminds us, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” The truth is, real life is found only in Jesus Christ and is punctuated in service rendered to God by serving our neighbor.
To focus our efforts and evaluate our accomplishments by the present is a gloomy proposition for life. Christ called us to a higher life; a life that we must lose in order to find. Christ’s example encourages us to keep pushing onward despite the temporal difficulties this life sometimes brings:
When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it (Mk. 8:34-35).
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45).
Blessings in Jesus,