We Are Never Alone
As the year closes out and the New Year begins, we often pause to reflect. Likely, we have experienced the full range of experiences during the year. We remember laughing out loud, been embarrassed a time or two, and maybe even some things we would like to forget. My last day on Active duty as an Army chaplain was actually just a few days ago, on 31 December 2016. My time of service, I assure you, was full of the greatest joys and some of the deepest sorrows. I walked with people through difficult, seemingly impossible, situations. I have seen the darkness weighing burdening some to a point they would most certainly break. I have also seen them make it through to the other side. So, if you will permit me, I would like to offer a spiritual encouragement. God is "absolutely/always" able to bring us through life's darkest storms.
"On average, we are losing 20 veterans and nearly one current service member a day to suicide." If you are a service member or Veteran you have probably been impacted by suicide, or the ideations or attempted suicides of friends or family members. Psychologists say we become a threat to ourselves when we feel hopeless, helpless and worthless. Hopeless sees no way to escape. Helpless sees no sign of help to come. Hopelessness is a loss of purpose. If we could even bring a single ray of light into this darkness, survival is possible. I believe if we can provide even one of the three (hope, help or purpose) we can save lives. Let's talk about "HOPE" today.
Alone in his small plane, the pilot looked uneasily at the heavy, black clouds that were rapidly approaching. His fuel was getting low. Should he turn back? The airfield behind him was further than the one ahead. He decided to continue in spite of the dark clouds ahead. Within minutes he was engulfed in an unbroken grayness that seemed to have no dimensions—no up, no down, no right, no left—only unchanging opaqueness. After some time he began to feel that his plane was climbing. Yet, a glance at his instruments assured him he was flying straight and level. Still, the impression that he was climbing persisted and grew stronger. Had his instruments gone awry? Could he trust them? Suppose they were faulty? Finally, his impressions won. He decided something must have gone wrong with his instruments and that he had better not rely on them. So, he began to “fly by the seat of his pants,” as the saying among pilots goes. Thus, it was that a farmer making his way under sullen overcast skies to his barn heard a plane flying dangerously low and, in a few moments, heard the dull explosion that told him it had crashed. What had caused the tragedy? The pilot had an “absolute standard” by which to determine his position— his instruments. However, he decided to trust his impressions and feelings, rather than the instruments. Hope is more than a feeling. When darkness encroaches upon us, our feelings and thoughts can become illogical and lead us astray. Hope when concerning God is based on him always being there when we needed him most. When it gets right down to it, we must always remember, we are never alone. He is there with us! I am not saying he makes life easy. Just look at the challenges the people from Scripture faced. There are plenty of difficulties still ahead for us all.
Resilience is the buzz word in the military today. Resilience is the ability of a person or thing to endure or bounce back from being squeezed into or knocked out of a previous shape. Our spiritual enemy has a plan for us-he is hell bent on stealing our joy (our love of life), killing (our dreams) and destroying any hope for the future (eternal separation from God). Scripture responds to Satan's schemes declaring that God has a plan for each for us to-we have the abundant life (in short, that we might succeed and prosper in all we do).(John 10:10)
Life does not generally let us know when a traumatic event is coming. Whether the trauma is a first hand (physical or psychological), secondhand (as you relive vividly another's experience) or anticipatory (when you are fully expecting to get "it" the next time you go out of the wire). Experiencing traumas changes us. These changes are not all bad. Trauma is accumulative. We all can only carry so much and walk so far under a burden. In these instances, we have to recognize the changes have become unhealthy. We become overwhelmed. We cannot live in the past...nor get stuck in the present. Both of these are descriptions of PTSD, which by the why affects more than servicemen and women too. These affect our family members too. Two problems I see are people trying to handle more than than need to all by themselves and not letting other help lighten their load. How can we continue on? Romans 12:2 tells us "do not conformed (pressed into the image) as determined by the world; instead, be transformed (metamorphosis) by the renewing of your mind." (Good News Translation) This portion of Scripture informs us to resist being conformed (pressed into the image) as determined by the world (those around us).
I was in a C-130 (Military cargo plane) crash 12 years ago. I was not expected to live through the night. Half of my skull was crushed (initially I had no immediate memory and was missing more than 6 years of my long term memory), multiple bones broken, I had internal bleeding and a partially severed spine (they thought). The outlook was very bleak. There were plenty of times where I or my wife could have just given up but we kept pressing onward. I survived, what kind of a diminished capacity would I have to live with? Would I be able to think straight or communicate well? Would I be paralyzed?
Answer: God will keep perfect wave those whose minds are stayed on him. Isaiah 26:3
God does not tempt you, but with each temptation he gives you the strength to bear the load and ability to make it through. 1 Corinthians 10:13
The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. C.S. Lewis
Oh, I would not wish the "journey" through recovery upon anyone but I have certainly gained a new perspective. Being transformed by the renewing of your mind, like recovery or getting through a difficult time, is a process not an event that is fixed overnight. With God's help, I stayed on Active duty, recovered my memory, got promoted, went on a 15 month 2nd deployment, did 15 more airborne jumps, Department of the Army select for Advanced Civilian Schooling (applied/selected at Duke Divinity School, graduated with a 2nd Master's of Theology with concentration in Ethics-G.P.A. 3.48), taught Ethics at the Military Police School, CGSC graduate, Air Assault school graduate, Combative 1 and 2 graduate (level 1 instructor), Rear-Detachment Division Chaplain and a published author.
Today, for God's glory I declare, like James did that I "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
Resources which are always available for those who believe... GOD, family and our friends!
WE ARE NEVER ALONE!
How can we function fully in the future?
1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
In conclusion, life is not always fair. At times, it may seem like we cannot continue or that we have been damaged beyond repair. Though despair knocks incessantly at the door, you do not have to answer the door. You do not have to let despair in. Instead, let's remember it is often darkest just before the dawn. Though changed, we are not ruined by our experiences. Lift up your eyes. Gain a new perspective. Be transformed. You are more resilient than you think because you are not alone. Your family, your friends (each other) and your God are always available.
God help us when we cannot help ourselves. When we are damaged by life, help us not to be overwhelmed, overcome and to bounce back. Rather than being diminished may we become more than we previously were. Help us remember that we are never alone but at our famines, friends and you are always available to assist us. May your face shine upon us and our minds and spirits be renewed in you today. Amen.
About the Author
Jeff recently retired from the US Army. He was enlisted as a Calvary Scout before commissioning as a Chaplain in 2000. Jeff holds a Bachelor's Degree in Bible/Ministerial from Trinity Bible College, a Master's of Divinity from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, and a Master's of Theology with a concentration in Ethics at Duke Divinity School. He has deployed to Iraq with the 2/10 Special Forces Battalion and 2-12 Infantry Battalion.