Having had the opportunity to travel around the world, let me say that I think America is the greatest country on Earth!
We are far from perfect. We have our many flaws. But we have so much to be thankful for as a nation.
Imagine what kind of world we would live in today if there had been no America. No one to turn back the rise of Nazis and their allies in World War II. No one to stand up against the tyranny of Communism over the years. No one to stand up for the small nations that cannot help themselves. Then there are the billions of dollars in aid we have sent around the world to help those in need.
Why has America been able to do all those things? Because we have a foundation that has taught us what right and wrong are, taught us there is a God who has given us His Word to guide us and taught us there is a responsibility that comes with His bounty.
We learn those things from the book our country was founded on: the Bible.
Thomas Jefferson is said to have written, "The Bible is the cornerstone for American liberty." Of Holy Scripture, Andrew Jackson said the Bible is "the rock on which our republic rests." Abraham Lincoln stated, "All the good Savior gave to the World was communicated through this Book. But for this Book we could not know right from wrong. All the things most desirable for man's welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found in it."
The Fourth of July is this week. As you know, our Founding Fathers framed a document we call the Declaration of Independence, authored by Thomas Jefferson and signed in 1776.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
We often forget that in declaring independence from an earthly power, our forefathers made a direct declaration of dependence upon God Almighty. The closing words of this document declare: "With a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."
So it's not only a "Declaration of Independence" from foreign tyranny. It's also the "Declaration of Dependence" on God Almighty.
God has blessed this great nation of ours over these past 200-plus years. We rightly sing "America, America, God shed His grace on thee . . . "
A symbol of our country and our liberty is the Statue of Liberty. Inscribed at the entrance to it are the words:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Instead, we have more and more people who want to come in, searching for the "American Dream," searching for this happiness we speak of in our Declaration of Independence.
And as we have seen time and time again, it's still possible to come from another place to the United States and live the "American Dream." Hard work really can pay off and you can still succeed and prosper in this country.
But the question is, are we a happy people? Let me personalize it: Are you happy?
Some of the unhappiest people I know are those who are in the pursuit of happiness. Perhaps that is why philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote, "The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness." Playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote, "There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart's desire. The other is to get it."
In America, the accumulation of material goods is at an all-time high. But so is the number of people who feel an emptiness in their lives.
Forbes magazine devoted its 75th-anniversary issue to a single topic: "Why we feel so bad when we have it so good." Noting Americans live better then any other people on the planet, Forbes invited prominent observers of modern culture to speculate as to why we are "depressed," or in the words of editor James Michaels, "Why is this nation that marched so proudly into the 20th century slouching so dejectedly toward the third Millennium"? The articles in this special issue chronicled an alarming loss of values, absolutes and meaning in contemporary life.
Why is this? Abraham Lincoln answered this question many years ago.
We have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
President Lincoln was right. We have forgotten God. It's even more true today.
We have thrown God out of the classroom. We have thrown Him out of the courtroom, a judicial system built on Biblical truth. And we have done our best to throw Him out of modern culture.
We have, as the Bible says, "sown the wind, and reaped the whirlwind" (see Hosea 8:7 NKJV).
In spite of being a nation at peace and having a robust economy, we have "trouble in paradise." As many as 20 percent of Americans (54 million) will battle major depression in their lifetime. As many as 45 million Americans participate in drinking binges at least once a month.
There are 650,000 attempted suicides a year in our country. Every 17.2 minutes in America, someone kills themselves. Approximately 500,000 people received emergency-room treatment as a result of attempted suicide. There are more suicides than homicides, and the highest rate is among senior citizens. Teenage suicide has reached epidemic levels.
I read in a recent article on young people and suicide that the number of 10-14 year olds taking their lives has gone up dramatically since the early 1980s. According to a study by the American Association of Suicidology, up to 60 percent of high school students report having suicidal thoughts. The word that experts use over and over again to describe kids is "hopelessness."
And why is there this hopelessness? Because we have forgotten God.
How can this be? In our pursuit of "freedom," some have lost sight of the Creator who has given us the clear parameters to live by. And for many, that "freedom" and "pursuit of happiness" has led to bondage and despair.
On the wall of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. are these words from Thomas Jefferson: "God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever."
The answer for America's problems is not a political one. It is spiritual. We need to turn back to God. Why? Because the real problem is inside of us, and only God can change us!
A news reporter asked a person on the street, "Do you know what the two greatest problems in America are?" The man responded, "I don't know, and I don't care!" "Then you've got both of them!" was the abrupt reply.
We sing, "God bless America, land that I love, stand beside her, and guide her, through the night, with the light from above . . . " We are in that "night" in America right now, and we desperately need that "light" from above.
Not some nebulous, whatever-you-conceive-God-to-be spirituality. We need to turn back to the true and only God.
The same God our Founding Fathers invoked when they established this nation. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God who gave us Jesus Christ as His Son to die on the Cross in our place. The God who gave us the Bible as our guide and manual for living. The only God who can save America and us as individuals.
The happiness we all seek as Americans can be found not in the pursuit of it, but as the result of pursuing something else, or rather someone else. And that someone is God.
Scripture reminds us, "Happy are the people whose God is the Lord" (Psalm 144:15 NKJV).
May you have a happy and blessed Fourth of July!
Used with Permission