This post in response to an article a friend sent me about the spiritual state of soldiers caught up in the Iraq war. The article is called “How Chaplains, Soldiers Keep Faith During War.” It aired in this week’s Newsweek Magazine.
This is really sad. I hate to even make a comment on it. I can’t imagine what these men have gone through. I spent 4 years on a floating, submerging, nuclear bomb, searching and hunting soviet submarines and practicing shooting them when we found them. But I was never shot at and never saw any of my friends die. I knew lots of Viet Nam vets. I’ve known Navy Seals who have killed, even murdered people, but I’ve not experienced it myself.
On the other hand the Bible is full of instances and examples where thousands of men and women were killed by other men and women. And because they didn’t have technology like we have they had to do their killing up close and personal. This was the context where God made himself known to his people.
I know a story where the son of God came to us and was d, mutilated, and hung on a cross to have all his bones thrown out of joint until he suffocated to death. I know he died before he suffocated, but I also know he died without losing his faith in the Father.
While I haven’t experienced what these soldiers have gone through I also know they have not gone through something unique in world history (I do not mean to sound callous). Men have fought ugly wars throughout history. They have had trials of faith just like our men. They have gone mad like our men. They have become hardened and rough and quiet and introverted. And they have grown close to God and his faith.
In the end the only thing I can say is that true Faith is not faith in our understanding of the god we create in our mind. This god falls apart when things get tough. True faith is trusting in the God of the Bible. And this trust means knowing that God is God and he is doing what he wants because he is God. We also know that he is a loving, graceful, merciful, kind, wonderful God, and that makes trusting him in times that make no sense to us all the more faithful. It is when things aren’t going our way or making sense to us that trusting God as God is important. It is times like this when faith is actually faith. And it is trusting in times like this that shows that our faith is in God not in ourselves or our idea of God.
God is not allowing all this to happen. He is causing it to happen, for a reason. We didn’t just wander into it. God placed us there on purpose for a reason. We know God is good, so we know that those reasons are also good. When we want to be God, we question and get angry with him. When we trust and wait on him and rest in his choices for us our faith stands firm and grows stronger. See James 1 and Romans 5 and remember the context of those “trials” and “sufferings.” The Bible was written and first lived out in a very violent and world, not unlike the world our troops are fighting in today.
I ended up writing a whole lot more than I intended. I haven’t gone through what they are going through. We here in Moscow are looking over the edge of the “safe” America into the abyss of the future non-Christian world. For several years now we have been in a kind of war on many fronts. Some of the battles are almost over, some just beginning, and some just keep ing. But loving God and making a stand for him is costing us more than any other American Christian that I know of. We haven’t suffered to the point of shedding blood, though some of us thought about that a couple of years back. But God is God and we are loved by him.
None of this is like our soldiers in Iraq. But I still think being a Christian in American will go south in our life times, if not ours in our children’s for sure. And then will we trust that God knows best for his children or will we freak out and lose our faith? I don’t know. I hope and pray that we’ll stand firm to the end.
I hope this helps.