This is a captivating and beautifully written book about the first four months of Harry Truman’s presidency, which the author argues were the four most world-changing months in American history.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Truman’s early life is its sheer ordinariness, and yet God placed him in an extraordinary office during an extraordinary time. There was nothing in his education, his family background, his finances (or serious lack of them), or his working life that would have given the slightest possible hint as to his future role.
Looking back, however, his biographer highlighted one pivotal period in his life. Truman took seriously ill with diphtheria while in first grade and was packed in snow to try and reduce his dangerous fever. He ended up being paralyzed for a year, but it was during that year when he took up reading. He read the Bible, especially Matthew and Exodus, but he also read a set of books, called Heroes of History. As he read about Moses, Cyrus, Hannibal, the Duke of Wellington, Ulysses Grant, and many others, he noticed one common trait in them all. Here’s how he put it in his diary:
“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves . . . Self-discipline with all of them came first.”
It was a trait that he himself quietly cultivated and strengthened over many years and through many difficult providences, never realizing the greatness he was being prepared for.
Who knows what God is preparing you for. Sometimes, like Truman, all the self-sacrifice seems to lead nowhere. It’s all pain and no gain. But God may be preparing you for a great task many years down the road. In the meantime, keep building that muscle of self-discipline, which, of course is made even stronger by Spirit-discipline.
Like Truman, you may find that there’s nothing accidental in God’s plan.