In honor of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s birthday on this date in 1824, I read his wife’s recollections in the Life and Letters of “Stonewall” Jackson (pp. 56-57). I was particularly heartened at this passage:
“At the time of Major Jackson’s acceptance of this professorship [at Virginia Military Institute] his health was not good, and his eyes, especially, were so weak that he had to exercise great caution in using them, never doing so at night. Thus crippled for his work, a friend asked him if it was not presumption in him to accept the place when he was physically incapacitated to fill it. ‘Not in the least,’ was his prompt answer; ‘the appointment came unsought, and was therefore providential; I knew that if Providence set me a task, he would give me the power to perform it. So I resolved to get well, and you see I have. As to the rest, I knew that what I willed to do, I could do.’”
Of course, as they say, the rest is history. His appointment to the Military Institute was to identify him with the Shenandoah Valley and the brave men who so gladly served under him in defense of their state in the war to follow. Here was an extraordinary leader and godly example to the soldiers he commanded. So effective was his leadership that the war probably only turned against the South due to his untimely death at age 39 (he was mistakenly shot by one of his own men). Jackson himself would undoubtedly agree that even his own death was a special providence. “God's voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding” (Job 37:5).
"Stonewall” Jackson reminds us that we can indeed trust in Providence to always do what is right. What comfort is ours, standing in the shadow of men of faith before us, to know that every circumstance in our lives serves a larger Divine plan and, therefore, we can truly “will to do,” as Jackson did, what we must in service of our Sovereign.