On Tuesday night, I had the privilege of hearing once more the University of Georgia Wind Symphony in concert. Just a day after President’s day, one of the pieces they performed was Aaron Copland’s classic, “A Lincoln Portrait.” Narrated that evening by Metropolitan Opera baritone, Frederick Burchinal, it moved me deeply.
I was particularly struck by these words in Copland’s description of Lincoln, “Abe Lincoln was a quiet and a melancholy man.”
Yes, he “was a quiet and a melancholy man.” History records that Lincoln struggled with depression his entire adult life. The loss of loved ones and his many career disappointments only added to the level of difficulty he experienced. A lesser man might have given up, but instead Lincoln allowed all this pain to galvanize his will and prepare him for one of the most difficult tasks any human has ever faced: occupying the office of the President of the United States during the Civil War.
Though often characterized as a “religious skeptic,” I have a little book I found at an estate sale years ago entitled Lincoln’s Devotional. It is a reprint of an 1852 edition of The Believer’s Daily Treasure with an introduction by Carl Sandburg. Sandburg reports of Lincoln’s lifelong Bible reading habit and raises the possibility that he was often seen reading this small book of scriptures arranged for daily reading.
Anyone who has ever dealt with depression knows the feeling of walking around in a world where it seems the lights have all been dimmed. The struggle often seems endless. There was a time in my life many years ago when I was all too familiar with these symptoms. I’m so thankful for the amazing healing God has brought.
I’m especially thankful that no matter what dark place we find ourselves in, that God can do what seems to be impossible, and use our struggles and calamities for greater good than we can imagine.
If you’re struggling with depression today, remember how God mightily used Lincoln. Get the help you need, keep up your hope, and think on these words of the Psalmist, “…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
Here's a portion of "Lincoln's Portrait" performed by the United States Marine Band and narrated by Allen Guelzo.