Do You Hang On To Known Misery Rather Than Reach Out For Unknown Happiness?
During July, I watched “The Sons of Liberty,” historical stories about a group of men fighting in the American Colonies for freedom. It brought to life figures like John Adams, John Hancock, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, those US founding fathers we usually see depicted as older, bewigged and solemn as they’re signing the Declaration of Independence.
This series, however, shows young, courageous and seemingly fearless men determined to break away from a far-away king’s rule, British corruption and “taxation without representation.” They were called “The Sons of Liberty.”
In the TV depiction Samuel Adams, cousin to the more well-known John Adams, is a hero who found his calling as colonial activist, motivating and inspiring others to rebel against the British. While admiring his dashing acts of bravery, I was struck by this thought: today, we might not be physically fighting for our freedom, but we often wage war in our minds. We need freedom; we metaphorically cry: “give me liberty or give me death!” We can relate to Samuel Adams and The Sons Of Liberty.
- Like us, I imagine Samuel Adams often thought, “I can’t,” “why me?” or “this isn’t fair!”
- Samuel was unsuccessful as a businessman in colonial Boston. Who among us hasn’t faced defeat in a business opportunity or lost a job? At those times, we might mumble as perhaps Samuel did, “I tried it and it didn’t work.”
- Samuel experienced dissatisfaction with his life in general. Perhaps, like us, he woke up one morning to discover he had turned into the wrong person.
- Samuel was driven by desperation – he was broke – when he took on the unpopular task of tax collector for the British. Although it’s been almost 250 years since the Sons of Liberty spearheaded the cause for liberty, I think at one time or another we all find ourselves feeling desperate. I know I have. I remember times filled with hopelessness, anxiety and despair when I was ill and jobless or when I was facing a life without one of my legs.
However, something interesting happened as Samuel Adams reluctantly collected taxes; he began to see a clear pattern of British corruption that did not sit well with him! That immense dissatisfaction and sense of outrage ultimately led to his playing a significant role in “The Boston Tea Party,” and “The American Revolution.”
Almost 150 years later, Oswald Chambers penned words that Samuel Adams would undoubtedly have embraced and that we identify with today: “We lose interest and give up when we have no vision, no encouragement, and no improvement, but only experience our every-day life with its trivial tasks.” Sometimes, like Samuel Adams, we just need a purpose.
In the war of our minds, we also experience times of overwhelming situations and wonder, “what on earth are you doing, God?” We ask, “what possible good could come from such a horrible break-up, loss of a job, or devastating illness?” If we’re honest, we get mad at God, upset with the world and are disappointed with ourselves for getting into such a mess.
With the advantage of hindsight, we’ll later say things like, “Oh! That’s why I got so discouraged!” Or, “Now I see what God had in mind; it was better for me to go through that situation.” But usually, the first insight comes as we, like Samuel, start to dislike the way things are. From that uncomfortable place, when we’ve had enough, we’re ready to do something different.
That’s the beginning of the battle in our minds. We long to step out of our comfort zone and react differently or try new things. But the part of our brain which seeks familiarity; which hangs on to known misery rather than seek unknown happiness, demands comfort, not challenge.
The first skirmish is the decisive one. We struggle with how it’s always been, what we’ve always done and who we’ve always thought we were. But when the pain of remaining the same becomes greater than the fear of change, we are ready to brawl. There may be more battles to face, more obstacles to conquer, but we’re on the way.
And just as Samuel Adams and “The Sons of Liberty” brought freedom to our land, we can bring freedom to our minds.