This post originally appeared on May 21, 2014 at Borrowed Light
Take a look around your congregation and count. Look at the older gentlemen, the baby boomers and now my generation and count. Count those who have donned the uniform and gone into harm’s way–away from their families, relative luxury and comfort–and are now in a pew or chair in your local church. It is very likely that you will have at least one veteran of combat in your church or at the very minimum a family who is deeply connected to one. Veterans are more numerous than most any other portion of the population.
Of the 23 veterans that take their lives daily, how many were in a pew on Sunday? How many pastors or members of their local church body knew the war that was being waged silently for the heart and soul of that veteran? How many families are falling apart because of the battle warriors are facing that only begins once they arrive on American soil?
There are many counseling programs and ministries being championed by the local church, yet there is a gaping hole in almost every church. And that gaping whole once wore dog tags and combat boots. The local church holds treasure that no doctor, government agency, therapist or fraternal organization can offer. The local church has the precious gospel of Jesus Christ, as well as the care of a local congregation and a pastor. Though these veterans may have real physical needs that can only be addressed by medicine, churches can minister the Word of God which is the only real salve for the soul.
I am by no means the most heroic or decorated veteran, but I can say with certainty that my time in combat and my experiences changed me forever. Though we train hard, both mentally and physically, war has a way of causing one to really wrestle with everything they know to be true about the meaning of life, its value, priorities and the good and evil of humanity. War is a unique experience shared among the few who have experienced it. Of the thousands of “the few” I have spoken to, the one thing we have in common is the change we experienced from it. Many of us are fathers and husbands or mothers and wives and we are home, but home is not the same. We no longer fit in, our family no longer understands us, and our work does not seem to hold the same weight. This is the change we have in common, the world remained the same but we didn’t.
We came home with our hearts carrying the burden of brothers lost, remnants of fear for our life lurking in the shadows, and as members of a brotherhood that we will never seem to duplicate. Our bodies are worn, our minds are molded for war and our souls are weary. Divorce, drunkenness, drug addiction and suicide run rampant among us. We are ridden with guilt, loneliness, anger, rage, depression and regret. After the ticker tape parade and yellow ribbons are torn down, we live a lonely and dark life longing to live with the hope of a bright future that we once had before we arrived “in country”.
Even so, I see little evidence of the one thing God has perfectly designed to be a respite for the weary and dispensary of hope for the hopeless addressing this issue. The local church, its members and leaders are God’s perfect place for veterans to receive the one and only thing that can offer them true hope and healing, that thing is The Gospel of Jesus Christ in the loving embrace of a caring community of believers.
Just as we rally around a widow mourning the loss of her spouse, the brother fighting the idol of addiction, the young lady battling depression or anxiety from a trauma in her life or the marriage that is being torn to shreds by the enemy, the local church is God’s haven for the weary warrior who needs to find all of their healing, forgiveness, hope and happiness in Jesus Christ. The pastor must boldly minister the Word of God to them with confidence that it is efficacious. And though they may not identify with the veteran’s battle, pastors must have a bold confidence that our Great High Priest knows their battle.
As a Marine veteran, someone who served in church ministry and one who knows the power of The Gospel of Jesus Christ, I am burdened to engage other churches and fellow believers to think hard about the effects of war and combat on the warrior’s soul. Secular psychology and medical professionals have shined an enormous amount of attention on this widespread issue among returning veterans and the startling numbers of veterans returning are not final. But at its very core this is not merely a medical or psychological issue, it is a gospel issue. This is a book I need, so I am writing it.
For this reason I ask that you pray for me and pray about how you might support this effort as I am embarking on a self-publishing project with WestBow Press titled “He Will Deliver Us: Christ-Centered Counsel after Combat” to exhort my believing brothers in arms, pastors, churches and families to be assured that even in this issue, He will deliver us.
For His Glory Alone,
Right now I am working on three things: 1st and most importantly, the manuscript with roughly 12 weeks of work remaining at the beginning of May 2014, 2nd I am finalizing the details of the best cover design I can find and continuing building support and interest in the project.