Last month I began my ambitious goal to read a book about every US president, starting with a book about my favorite president: Abraham Lincoln.
While reading about Lincoln’s life, I got some really great insight into the behind the scenes of wartime. Since my elementary years, I’ve always known the outcome of the Civil War, but I never really knew the struggle Lincoln experienced on the road to victory. One of the surprising challenges he faced during the first few years of the Civil War were generals who approached war and their enemy cautiously.
Why would a war general be cautious with the enemy? Confidence seems like the better method. However, Lincolns first few rounds of general seemed to have a cowardly approach to war. Off the battlefield, they were very vocal about their confidence to fight and win. But on the battlefield, they consistently ran in the opposite direction of the fight.
The most infamous general for the cowardly “avoid the fight” strategy during the civil war was General McClellan who was, to no one’s surprise, replaced by Lincoln with General Pope.
Pope, like McClellan was cocky. The difference was that Pope backed up his confident and smudge words with action. He fought the enemy. When Pope took over the Army of Virginia from McClellan, he attempted to arouse courage out of a cowardly bunch with this inspiring speech:
"I have come to you from the west where we have always seen the backs of our enemies; from an army whose business it has been to seek the adversary and to beat him when was found; whose policy has been attack and not defense…I have been called here to pursue the same system and to lead you against the enemy"
- Union General Pope
The truth is, the Army of Virginia kept experiencing defeat even with an aggressive new general. They were just too ingrained in their cautious and cowardly ways. But after I spent chapter upon chapter reading about cowardly generals, the sentiments Pope gave to “seek the adversary and beat him when found” jumped off pages. Something was stirred in me.
I let those words “we have always seen the backs of our enemies” roll around in my head for a few weeks, and a desire began to be wound up in me: I don’t want to run anymore.
Then I began to notice in my devotional reading’s day after day Scriptures like this:
Doesn’t it seem like the Lord is giving me my own Pope-like speech? These scriptures have been like water to the dry grounds of my heart. They are changing something within me.
I’ve ran from far too many battles. I’ve perfected the art of avoiding every enemy of my soul. I’ve worried myself away from the battles that would bring victory in my life. But God is leading me into the fight with words of promise and an invitation to trust .
He is developing a NEW desire in me. I don’t want to run. I want to pursue the victories and blessings in my life. I want a new view: my enemy’s back.
This newfound desire coupled with the words of Scripture are helping my heart pivot from a hesitant spirit towards a “lean in” attitude when it comes to the fight. And I am learning in the art of war that opposition isn’t a stopping point; it’s an opportunity for courage.
Caution will no longer be my approach to challenges. C O N F I D E N C E is my new strategy. And friends, confidence is a practice, not a personality trait. We can practice confidence even when we don’t feel it. It something that needs to grow and develop in us.
So, this is your and my friendly reminder not to hesitate to enter the fight. With God we can “advance against a troop”. We can even “scale a wall”. And with the confidence of Christ, we can embrace a new view: the enemy’s back.
Jen is a pastor, worship leader, writer, and songwriter living in Napa, California.