They called him “Old Hickory” because of his tenacity and grit. His mother chose “Andrew” on March 15, 1767, when she gave birth to that independent-minded South Carolina rebel. Wild, quick-tempered, and disinterested in school, Andrew answered the call for soldiers to resist the British invasion at age thirteen. Shortly thereafter, he was taken prisoner. Refusing to black an enemy officer’s boots, he was struck with a saber—Andrew’s introduction to pain.
Although he bore the marks of the blow for the rest of his life, Andrew’s fiery disposition never waned. A fighter to the core, he chose to settle arguments in duels and lived most of his days with two bullets painfully wedged in his body. After he distinguished himself on the battlefield, his name became a national synonym for valor and stern persistence. When politics nodded in his direction, “Old Hickory” accepted the challenge: first the Senate, then nomination for President. The shadow of pain appeared again in another form as he lost a narrow race with John Quincy Adams.
Four years later, however, he ran again . . . and won! But pain accompanied the victory. Two months before he took office he lost his beloved wife, Rachel. Grief-stricken, the President-elect pressed on. Even as he was being sworn into office as our nation’s seventh President, he fought the anguish of a raging fever caused by an abscess in the lung.
Some time later, one of the bullets within him had to be surgically removed. He endured that operation—done without anesthetic—in typically courageous fashion. Even his political career was painful. A nasty scandal split his cabinet, and critics clawed at him like hungry lions. Although he stood firm for many months, the telling signs of pain began to manifest themselves. He was one of the few men who left office, however, more popular than when he came. “For once, the rising was eclipsed by the setting sun,” wrote a contemporary sage. And it was pain, more than any other single factor, which drew the qualities of greatness out of Andrew Jackson.
Pain humbles the proud. It softens the stubborn. It melts the hard. Silently and relentlessly, it wins battles deep within the lonely soul. The heart alone knows its own sorrow and not another person can fully share in it. Pain operates alone; it needs no assistance. It communicates its own message whether to statesman or servant, preacher or prodigal, mother or child. By staying, it refuses to be ignored. By hurting, it reduces its victim to profound depths of anguish. And it is at that anguishing point that the sufferer either submits and learns, developing maturity and character, or resists and becomes embittered, swamped by self-pity, smothered by self-will.
I have tried and I cannot find, either in Scripture or history, a strong-willed individual whom God used greatly until He allowed him to be hurt deeply.
It was just such a person who wrote these words for all to read:
Pain knocked upon my door and said
That she had come to stay,
And though I would not welcome her
But bade her go away,
She entered in.
Like my own shade
She followed after me,
And from her stabbing, stinging sword
No moment was I free.
And then one day another knocked
Most gently at my door.
I cried, “No, Pain is living here,
There is not room for more.”
And then I heard His tender voice,
“‘Tis I, be not afraid.”
And from the day He entered in,
The difference it made!
—Martha Snell Nicholson
Excerpt taken from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission. For additional information and resources visit us at www.insight.org.