The small bearded man sat under a tree.
He was dressed in rumpled dark clothes, chewing on a cigar. He seemed calm, oblivious to the shouts and screams of the men around him. He was looking down, his broad-rim hat concealing part of his weathered face and the expressionless stoicism of his clear dark-gray eyes.
He was solitary even in a crowd.
At one point, Brigadier General William T. Sherman approached his friend.
“Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?”
Ulysses S. Grant, no stranger to adversity, failure and the struggles of demon drink, had known such days before. Disturbingly, all that seemed to arouse him was war. When some complained of his drinking, his Commander-in-Chief gave a brusque reply: “I can’t spare this man – he fights.”
General Grant looked up at Sherman.
“Yes,” he said, “lick ‘em tomorrow though.”
This was the end of day one of the bloodiest battle on the North American continent up to that time.
It was April 6, 1862, at a place along the banks of the Tennessee River called Pittsburg Landing. It would be one of the most significant battles of the Civil War. Historians know it as the Battle of Shiloh.
Confederate troops, 40,000 strong, under the able leadership of General Albert Sydney Johnston, had surprised an unprepared Union force in the morning hours. Spring was in the warm Tennessee air and the men in blue had taken to relaxing and enjoying the lush, pastoral setting of their camp. They knew the Confederates were nearby and might attack, but they had recently turned them back so never expected this assault.
The Northern troops were overwhelmed and routed.
For them, it had been “the devil’s own day” – a day of disastrous defeat.
Grant’s staff was in a panic.
If there was any thought or hope that this war would soon be over, it evaporated in the smoke and fury of Shiloh that day. Discouragement suddenly hung heavy in the once- cheerful air of the beautiful countryside.
Grant did not panic. He did not let defeat or discouragement overtake him. As bad as it was, he looked to tomorrow and to the opportunity of victory.
The Union forces dug in at a hollow point along a road called the “Hornet’s Nest.” The battle line was formed and after fierce fighting – and the arrival of Yankee reinforcements – the Union army was able to hold its ground. There were nearly 24,000 casualties in just two days of conflict.
It would have been a horrendous loss, even in a nation of 340 million. In 1862, it staggered the imagination.
The war wouldn’t end for three more years.
Have you ever experienced days that seemed like “the devil’s own”?
Maybe it started out good but how could you have foreseen what would happen before it was over?
Perhaps it was a day that started bad and only got worse.
You may be living in a series of days that you could only describe as “the devil’s own.”
You remember that long lonely corridor of grief or uncertainty in your life. Perhaps you’re walking it now.
Heartache, loneliness, discouragement, illness, depression, anxiety and temptation: these are just some of the enemies that assault us. Sometimes they come at us quite suddenly and unexpectedly. We’ve just come off a spiritual victory in our lives. We’re on that mountaintop – the news has been good – and then all of a sudden we’re knocked down again.
We’re in a valley of despond.
For the child of God, there are mountains and there are valleys; triumphs and trials; happiness and hardships; joy and grief.
We know victories and defeats.
Like Grant’s soldiers, one minute we’re basking in the warm sunshine of God’s love and provision and the next we’re in the middle of a fierce battle.
In our daily struggle with the world, the flesh and the devil, we make headway. We also suffer setbacks.
But know this: whatever you have gone through or may be going through right now, victory is yours. There is no day that belongs to the devil or his henchmen, no matter how it may seem to you at the moment.
Satan has not a single day he may call his own. He is a defeated enemy.
The clouds may obscure for a time the love and care of the almighty God, but they remain – undiminished by circumstance. You cannot see God but he’s never taken his loving eyes off you.
Each day is the day the Lord has made. For this reason – and this reason alone – you and I may rejoice and be glad for every day of life God gives us.
Good days and bad days, of course, but God rules them all.
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand … I have not seen the righteous forsaken” (Psalm 37:23-24, KJV).
So take courage and strength. Rejoice.
Remember, the devil only seems to have his own day.
Challenges and difficulties?
“Yes, lick ‘em tomorrow though.”
May God bless you and your family.