On this day in 1944, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the GI Bill.
Officially known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, the legislation was designed to compensate returning members of the military for their service in World War II. The American Legion, a veteran’s organization, successfully fought for many of the bill’s provisions, including unemployment compensation, low-interest home and business loans, and funding for education.
The last provision was especially significant. By giving veterans financial help for tuition, living, expenses, books, supplies, and equipment, the GI Bill effectively transformed higher education in the US.
Before the war, college was an option for only 10 to 15 percent of young Americans. By 1947, in contrast, veterans made up half of the nation’s enrollment. Three years later, nearly five hundred thousand Americans graduated from college, compared with one hundred and sixty thousand in 1939.
Overcrowded classrooms and residences prompted widespread expansion and improvement in university faculties and teaching staffs. New vocational courses were developed, including advanced training in agriculture, commerce, mining, education, and fishing.
Low interest loans also enabled millions of American families to move out of urban centers and buy or build homes outside the city, transforming suburbs. The GI Bill became one of the major forces driving an economic expansion in America that lasted thirty years after the war ended.
Two transforming reasons to trust the sovereignty of God today
The GI Bill’s origin illustrates this fact: We can seldom predict the future significance of present decisions.
President Roosevelt wanted to avoid a relapse of the Great Depression after World War II ended. He could not have imagined all the ways his legislation would change higher education, transform cities and suburbs, and improve the lives of multiplied millions of Americans. Many of the returning veterans who benefited from the bill had children whose lives were also changed, as were their children and their children’s children.
While our minds and knowledge are finite, our Father is omniscient: “I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying, My plan will take place, and I will do all My will” (Isaiah 46:10 HCSB). While our secularized culture separates Sunday from Monday and religion from the real world, God’s people know that our Lord’s wisdom is relevant and vital every moment of every day.
This fact is relevant to our lives in at least two ways.
One: We need God’s leadership to fulfill God’s purpose.
I was interviewed on the radio last night. At one point, the host asked me how Christians can best engage secular friends on the divisive moral issues of our day. I replied by encouraging us first to pray, to seek the leading of the Holy Spirit for our thoughts and words.
The Spirit knows the mind and heart of those we are called to influence. He knows what they most need to hear from us. And he will lead us in ways that can change their eternal destiny if we will seek and follow his guidance.
Two: We can trust God’s providence in the face of present challenges.
Because our Father sees “the end from the beginning,” we know that he knows the future better than we know the present. Because he loves us passionately and unconditionally (cf. Romans 5:8), we know that his will is best for us (cf. Romans 12:2). If we will give him our needs in faith, we can trust his grace for the day (cf. Philippians 4:13).
In today’s devotional produced by the Society of St. John the Evangelist, Br. Curtis Almquist noted: “Hope for the future comes from copying and pasting your experience of grace from the past.”
Name your greatest need or challenge today. Now think of ways your Father has met this need in the past and trust him for his present provision. And invite those you influence to trust his omnipotence as well.
As my pastor taught me many years ago, the will of God never leads where the grace of God cannot sustain.