The Sleep of the Saved

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In his epic six-volume memoir of the Second World War, Winston Churchill recounted the highs and lows that marked his years as British Prime Minister.

By the fall of 1941, his nation stood almost singlehandedly against the might of Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Imperial Japan.  Churchill’s call was to “keep the seas open and ourselves alive.”  Realistically, the situation was hopeless.

Then came December 7.   

Churchill and his family were at dinner when they heard a radio report that the Americans had been attacked at Pearl Harbor.  The phone rang at the Prime Minister’s residence.  President Roosevelt was calling from the White House.  “We are all in the same boat now,” he said.  Churchill responded, “This certainly simplifies things.  God be with you.”  There was nothing left for the two leaders to say.  They hung up.

Here’s what Churchill later wrote about the moment he stepped away from the phone:

“No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy.  I could not foretell the course of events… But now, at this very moment, I knew the United States was in the war up to the neck, and unto the death. 

“So we had won after all.  Yes, after Dunkirk, after the fall of France, after the horrible episode of Oran, after the threat of invasion when apart from the air and the navy we were an almost unarmed people, after the deadly struggle of the U-Boat war, the first battle of the Atlantic gained by a handsbreadth, after 17 months of lonely fighting and 19 months of my responsibility in dire stress, we had won the war.

“England would live.  Britain would live.  The Commonwealth of Nations and the Empire would live.  How long the war would last, or in what fashion it would end, no man could tell.  Nor did I at this moment care.  Once again, in our long island history, we should emerge, however mauled or mutilated, safe and victorious.  We should not be wiped out.  Our history would not come to an end… 

“No doubt it would take a long time.  I expected terrible forfeits in the East.  But all this would be merely a passing phase.  United, we could subdue everybody else in the world.  Many disasters, immeasurable cost and tribulation lay ahead, but there was no more doubt about the end.” 

That night when Churchill went to bed, “I slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.”

Sometimes people wonder whether it was really a big deal that God became a human being.  Did it mean that wars would cease?  That poverty and racism would be eliminated?  That cancer would be cured, and sex trafficking abolished, and all of our problems would be erased instantaneously by means of a divine Delete key?

No, it did not.  But it did mean that the spiritual battle for our planet has been decisively settled.  Since Christ has been turned loose in this world, there is no doubt about his ultimate victory.

If that is so, then what is there left for us to do?

We must decide what side we belong to.  And every day we must choose to fight for the abolition of war, the eradication of poverty and racism, the cure for every disease, and the liberation of all those trapped in any kind of nightmarish condition.  With all of our energy, intelligence, imagination, and love, we must take a stand for what is just and good.

Life’s struggles are far from over.  They may at times even seem to be worsening. 

But we know how the story is going to end.

Which means that even in the midst of disheartening days, followers of Jesus can sleep the sleep of the saved and thankful.