By David Bragg
Thomas Read and Martha White were newlyweds. Their young marriage was quickly put to the test when, on July 11, 1861, Thomas enlisted in the Confederate Army. Their letters are filled with talk of war and family and faith. Martha, or Mattie as friends and family knew her, was obviously concerned about the dangers her husband faced each day. She was just as anxious that he not lose sight of their shared faith in God.
One letter in particular stands out. Mattie, writing on a peaceful Sunday evening (August 31, 1862), describes the serenity of the farm and of her longing to be reunited. She is confident that, unless he is surrounded by the confusion of battle, his thoughts would be of her. She encouraged him to do whatever he can to find time amid the turmoil of camp life to focus his attention on God. "I do not think.” She writes Thomas, “that God ever placed a man in circumstances in which he could say with truth "I cannot serve God here." I believe that the Christian intent on the service of God can serve him any where" (http://www.rarebooks.nd.edu/).
Thomas Read survived being wounded on the very first day that Generals Grant and Lee faced each other on the battlefield (May 5, 1864). He survived being taken a prisoner at Winchester, VA that September. He survived life in the Union prison at Point Lookout, MD. The fact is, he and Mattie survived the Civil War. Through the travails of their life they teach us that the trials of life are only fleeting and that, if we really try, we can serve God in ANY circumstance.
The Apostle Paul reminds us of this truth. “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11). No matter where life takes you, never forget that you can serve God here.
- David Bragg serves as one of the ministers at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC and is co-editor of BulletinGold. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.