Perplexed, But Not Despairing

Written by Dr. Whitaker, Head of School

At one of his lowest points in the War for Independence, General George Washington reflected honestly on his odds of winning. In doing so his typically optimistic nature was tested beyond measure. He estimated he had 8,880 men at hand, 6,923 of whom were able to fight. The enemy was much larger.

He had just received word that the British recently hired 17,000 Germans to fight against the Sons of Liberty. This brought the Red Coats’ fighting force to nearly 30,000 by his best calculations.

Less than 48 hours later more bad news was delivered. The British were moving against him by land and sea. At daybreak, enemy ships began appearing in the Harbor. Some reported that on the morning of June 29 alone, 45 ships dropped anchor. By the end of the day, many accounts say that over a hundred enemy vessels crowded the bay at Staten Island.

On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress pushed back and voted to terminate their relationship with Great Britain. A foolish move by any measure. Many claimed it was the kiss of death for the American experiment.

David McCullough recounts this story in greater detail in his book 1776. He writes, “At a stroke the Continental Congress had made the Glorious Cause of America more glorious still, for all the world to know, and also to give every citizen-soldier at this critical juncture something still larger and more compelling for which to fight. Washington saw it as a fresh incentive, and to his mind, it had come at not a moment too soon.”

On this Fourth of July weekend, we celebrate the brilliant determination of all those who fought to win our freedom as a nation. We also take hope and gain courage from their example in the midst of our present day struggles.

Like Washington, we may feel overwhelmed. However, we find hope in 2 Corinthians 4:8, which says, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair.”

In the book of 2 Kings, we find the prophet Elisha surrounded by an enemy army sent for his capture. He is calm but his servant is overcome with fear. I relate more to the servant.

Elisha said, “Don’t worry about it—there are more on our side than on their side.” Then Elisha prayed, “O God, open his eyes and let him see.” Then the eyes of the young man were opened and he saw with a heavenly perspective. The whole mountainside was full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha!”

We may be surrounded on every side. The political world may look worrisome. The pollsters may predict woeful outcomes. But we can say with confidence to our children, “There are more with us than be with them. We are on the winning side. We’ve read the last chapter of the book and we know Who is victorious!”

Take courage and have a blessed Fourth of July Weekend.


Steve Whitaker, Ph.D.
Head of School


Note: Read more about the story above in David McCullough’s book 1776 (2007). It is both scholarly and inspirational.