HE WILL DELIVER US : CHRIST CENTERED COUNSEL AFTER COMBAT

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.

Our Experience

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.

He Will Deliver Us: Christ-Centered Counseling After Combat #crowdfunding campaign

A Little Intro Teaser:

My time at war is over, in all likelihood I will never put on a flak and comm helmet again. For many of you that reality is the same as much as it hurts to admit it. Most will never experience the battlefield again and that tears at the core of your being to accept it. So we are home, and yet we are still at war. With this book I am fighting for you.

The world moved on but we can’t. Now the warriors at home fiend to carry the weight of the duty that we once bore and it kills us little by little. Many of us are laden with anger at everyone, anxiety and fear of a reality that doesn’t really exist or we carry the painful reminder of a battle gone wrong by the wounds that wake us at night or the terrors that cause you to scream out at night.

Our war has come home with us and no earthly armor can us protect from it. The VA cannot heal us and the medicines are only lipstick on a pig. Society pities us as once valued treasure but broken and left for scrap. Our family hurts for us, leaves us, or we run them off and all we seem to have left are those who understand this life and the memories. Tragically, 22 of us daily beg for an escape through a bullet or a bottle because without real hope it seems like the only remaining choice.[1]

But this existence as merely human flesh is not our only choice. This life of emptiness is not the truth. The Author of all things is ready and able to shepherd us and take this burden from us. While we yearn for this to end, there is hope if we believe the truth that He will deliver us. May we rest our weary hearts knowing it is not our burden, but all of this, every single moment and detail is God’s plan that through Christ He would be the most supreme treasure, comforter, protector, provider and Sovereign Savior King to every single weary warrior.

Will you look to Him? Will you set your sights on Him? Can you taste the freedom that comes from forgiveness and rest? In this book, my prayer is to show you the hope and healing that comes from the only One who could accomplish the mission. The only One who knows your battle. The One who took all of this to a place that looked a lot like the hills we fought for and died there, but before He did he said “It Is Finished!”.
But that was not the end….

To Him be glory and honor and power forever. Amen.

HeWillDeliverUs4135

A Brief Overview of He Will Deliver Us: Christ-Centered Counsel After Combat

He Will Deliver Us:

Christ-Centered Counsel After Combat

 

Longing to Look Forward

I wrote this a year or two ago and now it seems more appropriate than ever to reflect again and redirect it to the Marines of Task Force Tarawa, especially those of us of Regimental Combat Team 2.

It is hard to believe that it has been over a decade since Jessica Lynch and the 507th Maintenance Company rolled through the dusty streets of An Nasiriya, Iraq on March 23, 2003. Eleven of Jessica’s fellow soldiers were killed that morning, five were captured and a dozen more injured. Lynch was critically injured, and made the news. At the end of the day eighteen fellow Marines perished and dozens others were wounded. Certainly hundreds of Marines were irrecoverably changed forever.

Most Americans would probably not remember this day and many have probably forgotten already but when the young lady’s name above comes up, we are easily reminded. As many of you know, my tank and platoon was involved in the so-called “dramatic rescue operation” of Jessica Lynch after a week of long days, long nights, a lot of losses around us and to top it off ice cold rain and mud which added to the melodrama of the time. Though our entire company escaped unscathed I cannot help but think we were all in some way changed and impressed upon by the regret that we may have been able to do more, save more, avoid deaths etc, if only we had done something different, were in a different place at a different time, or simply had tanks and equipment that weren’t hanger queens (Marine talk for something that is needing repairs more often than it is actually functioning).

I will probably never go a year without reflecting on this deployment and that nasty little armpit of Iraq we called “The Naz”…But as the years go by, and by God’s grace, I have found that it is and was all part of God’s greater plan. I have come to realize that as God has allowed this time of my life to become more of a memory instead of the identifying factor that made me who I am, that is my time as a Marine who happened to go to Iraq, I have been able to understand biblically that there are instances where diagnosis of PTSD, Depression, and other post-deployment issues that traumatize people really have a great way of diagnosing one’s depth and health of their faith. Scripture is silent to these specific diseases, as certainly there was no psychiatrist in Galilee. Even so, the Bible has story upon story of people suffering, and wondering possessed by unshakable demons and burdens that only Christ could liberate them from. I pray that God truly uses me to help someone someday who is overcome by guilt, regret or anger over life’s experiences and how they seem to play through their mind over and over all of the would have, could have, or should have scenarios and rest in the fact there is a great relief, a glorious hope in one biblical and existential fact. Scripture has outlined the perfect plan and approach to replace these burdens with joy and hope, by the very author himself. The author of life and the scripture about which I speak of is a sovereign, just, holy, merciful and gracious Father who seeks to redeem his creation for His glory and will use even these circumstances in forgettable places by forgettable people to accomplish His plan.

Now many of us are fathers and husbands, with many of us in new careers and some are growing older in The Corps. We have lost some since we returned home and some have seen their battles were only beginning on this side of the Atlantic. I know every one of us remembers the boredom, the drenching cold rain, the stink of Sumer cigarettes and the weird accents of the locals saying “thank you Mr. Bush” and “Cigar? Pepsi?” We struggle to remember, if only vaguely, what life was like before we crossed through the breach in Iraq.

Oh, how I long to look forward again. How I long to be able to sleep much less wake up and look forward to a day without the pain of first looking back. Will we ever really move on? Will we ever be able to release the burden we carry of the lives of our brothers that didn’t make it back?

In a sense, we never will. I know I won’t. That is the very essence of the term “Once a Marine, Always a Marine.” But I pray that we realize that we must.

May we rest our weary hearts knowing it is not our burden, but it was God’s plan. To Him be glory and honor and power forever. Amen.

 The Problem

According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) put out by the American Psychiatric Association, one would be diagnosed with a mental disorder if a person experienced at least one stressor such as exposure to or experience of death, threatened death, actual or serious injury or sexual trauma. One does not need to be physically present to obtain this diagnosis, but merely learn of this occurrence to a loved one if it is violent, or multiple exposures to indirect aversive details of the events such as those experienced by first responders and many support and medical personnel in the military[1].

The DSM has woefully fallen short of diagnosing the root cause of the symptoms veterans may present that leads to the diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a mental disorder. Since the human life is a psychosomatic being, that is, both human body and soul, in order to properly diagnose and treat the veteran, one must seek to uncover both bodily and spiritual issues that present symptoms that meet the indicatives of a PTSD diagnosis. If one fails to address the drivers behind the physical manifestations one will not truly heal from PTSD, but will merely manage symptoms.

The properly ministered Word of God is sufficient to heal the whole Christian suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress because it is viewed, at its very core, a spiritual issue that must be healed so that the physical manifestations may be resolved and not a mental disorder in the medical sense.

In order to demonstrate this, this book will examine research and sources from Veterans Affairs studies, military chaplains, medical and psychological experts as well as multiple theologians and biblical counselors. First we will identify what are and may cause the symptoms presented as post-traumatic stress. Secondly as detailed in Dr. Ed Welch’s book, Blame it on the Brain?, we will examine the experience and effects of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress to discern what is of physical and spiritual nature and determine how and why Scripture is the only source of true healing for the veteran suffering from combat stress[2]. Thirdly, we will seek to understand why at its basic worldview level the psychological symptoms, diagnostic methodology and treatment being championed today is not sufficient to heal the whole veteran as well as the various theological issues that are present with the physical symptoms. Lastly, based on the various symptoms, experiences, theological and worldview foundations that are presented, the word of truth as seen in the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be applied to these various areas to show that scripture is indeed sufficient and necessary to heal the whole Christian veteran after surviving a traumatic event.

Causes and Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress

In the book After The War Zone, Doctors Laurie B. Slone and Matthew J. Friedman frame the Post-Traumatic Stress within what is called the emotional cycle of deployment for military personnel[3]. This cycle is comprised of three phases beginning with the pre-deployment phase that brings in excitement, anxiety, fear, attempting to plan for family to continue life in the absence of the one deploying and the dreadful task of planning for not coming home. The second phase is what occurs during the actual deployment. The deployment phase for the military person will worry about the well-being of their loved ones. They will be overwhelmed with homesickness and anger that they cannot remedy the fear and worry of their loved ones back home. All of these emotions are considered whether or not they have experienced combat yet. Now once in country, the person will experience physically demanding changes in climate, work pace and hours, diet, and repetition and boredom. This mundane repetitious existence coupled with the climate and culture changes is exhausting enough, but then the combat troop begins to witness or encounter the effects of war. They may witness one or more friends close by die from enemy contact, improvised explosive device, or a casualty of fratricide. The intense feeling of fear due to combat causes heightened adrenaline and fight or flight reactions constantly. When these changes are thrust upon a person they grow immensely close and loyal to their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. And if anything happens to these people one will be affected deeply. Lastly, within the deployment phase there are a wide range of expectations and emotions that one might experience when anticipating their return home.

Finally, there is a post-deployment stage that all experience which begins with a honeymoon celebration phase and then a time of readjustment and renegotiation of life expectations of this world and the reality that the world one returns too is far less intense and for that matter, may feel as if it is different and petty compared to the rigors of deployed life.

Post-Traumatic Stress is what occurs after the return home and a period of adjustment has occurred but significantly different feelings and emotional reactions to otherwise normal living has been greatly affected by one’s experience in combat. Because the anatomical and physiological changes that occur resulting from traumatic brain injury, one must acknowledge the effects that may have on a person’s psychiatric symptoms or personality[4].

How combat veterans move beyond the honeymoon and adjustment phase can present vastly different symptoms resulting from what seems to be differing worldviews that exist during different periods of war. Vietnam veterans have fared far worse and progress from the deployment and post-deployment phases into what seems to be a fatalist worldview which exacerbates feelings of post-traumatic stress and may not manifest themselves until years later[5].

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress

Upon the return home, the most common feelings experienced by the veteran are isolation or abandonment, irritability or anger, hyper-alertness and grief or survivors guilt. The person may experience trouble concentrating, unwanted memories, and nervousness and anxiety and withdrawn feelings of emotional detachment[6].

It is important to identify the various behaviors, feelings and dispositions of the person that seem to be related to the post-traumatic stress. This is where biblical counseling agrees with psychology, both need to identify root causes that are made manifest in various symptoms. To the Christian there is no feeling or behavior that is not connected to the heart. The counselor may begin with a basic understanding of the person’s physical well-being the counselor may ask question about what feelings are present when they are angry. They may ask what the circumstances are and perceived provocations whether physical, internal or external that provoke their anger.

If we are to understand that anger towards someone as at its very root is the sin of murder, then we must seek to understand the motive. For the Christian all motives should be Godward, so we must understand what it is that this person desires so much that they are willing to murder for it in their hearts[7].

According to the Combat Trauma Healing Manual, it is important to draw out cognitive understandings of reality as it pertains to the trauma by remembering the events and constructing them mentally. This simply means helping the Christian veteran understand what happened to me and how am I reacting to it, followed by helping them to describe the feelings associated with the trauma and finally redeeming or empowering the veteran through the word of God, the Holy Spirit, Prayer, Christian Community, and Effort[8].

For the veteran who feels isolated and abandoned, the counselor will have to help them reconstruct in their minds what their expectations were and contrasting that with the Kingdom of God by asking why they feel abandoned and by whom. Secondly, the counselor may help them most by helping them identify themselves as a child of God.

The same goes for grief and survivors guilt.  The counselor will need to help them discern what it is that brings about the feeling of guilt and thereby either enabling the veteran to identify a sin to confess and be forgiven of or realize that God, in His sovereignty, ordained such events and thus the sin is not theirs to own. God’s sovereignty overrules their action or inaction; they merely lack resting in the sovereignty control of God. The counselor will have to ask why they feel responsible. The counselor will help them construct the events and point to God’s sovereign hand in all of it in order to show that God’s sovereignty trumps their retrospective or hypothetical actions. The counselor will then point to the One who takes that burden and casts it upon his shoulders and in turn offers them rest. The One is Christ.

Treating with Truth

Both physical and heart symptoms must be understood by the counselor and the symptoms that are related to the heart must be addressed by Scripture. According to Paul Tripp, in order to affect heart change counselors must be instruments of change by adhering to the four elements of biblical ministry[9]. The four elements of Love, Know, Speak and Do are vitally important to the counselor of the veteran living with post-traumatic stress. Through this process the counselor will discern the physical symptoms from the spiritual, engage the isolated veteran in relationship becoming intimately aware of the person and their physical and relational character that enables the counselor to know their heart, speak the truth of scripture into the heart, and challenge them to live in light of the biblical truth.

Discerning the Physical Symptoms from the Spiritual

            Elyse Fitzpatrick and Laura Hendrickson, M.D, maintain that there is a connection between the physical symptoms and heart and thus it is important that the counselor understand that the heart influences and body and the body influences the heart[10].

As the counselor attempts to discern what heart issue may lie behind the frequent onset of physical panic and racing heart, the counselor must understand that the body has been trained to react to the situation cognitively and the perceived truth that influences that cognitive process may be unbiblical or sinful. Welch observes “If the inner person yields to sin, then bodily passions will rule the entire person, and Satan has accomplished a king of anthropological reversal: the body will control the heart rather than the heart control the body.[11]”

Assurance and Freedom in Christ              

Of all the resources out there for my fellow veterans struggling to find relief after war, There is only one true resolution and that is assurance and freedom in Christ. Freedom from fear of the unknown, freedom from the guilt for their actions at war, freedom to commit to a relationship and to be loved, and freedom from the guilt of their reactions as they face the reality that their life has changed after they experienced terrible things.

William Bridge in A Lifting Up for the Downcast said “a man that lacks the assurance of God’s love, and of his interest in Christ, is fit neither to receive mercy from God, nor to make return of love and praise to God as he should.” He goes on to say lack of assurance leads to the misinterpretation of the mercies offered to him and that lack of assurance affords to many conversations with Satan. The veteran who lacks assurance has doubts, which is conversation with Satan, and then The Evil One bears false witness that he is not a child of God[12].This is ultimately where the combat continues. Veterans must be reminded of the sheer truth and power of God and the complete ruination of the power of death and guilt in Christ so that while their physical body may still show the effects of war, their hearts will wear the crown of victory.

The promises of God must be a reinforced and assured that they are true by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jeremiah Burroughs once said “God gives a man an eye to see the love of God in every affliction and as well as in prosperity.” And this eye looks upon what Christ has endured.[13] The Christian who bears guilt must be reminded to fixate upon the finished work of our Great High Priest. Geerhardus Vos said that through the priesthood of Christ in the book of Hebrews, the “the eternal covenant becomes religious ideal, since as a mere means to an end could not be eternal…and what is true of the covenant is true of the priesthood through which the believer attains the goal of all religion.” The goal attained is “through the Priest the people enter representatively into the safe sanctuary of perfect communion with God.”[14]  Through the work of Christ and the Priestly office that God is satisfied and through which He may allow veterans suffering from guilt, fear, anxiety, anger and moral trauma to be reconciled to God. The goal of the priesthood throughout Scripture is to satisfy God so that He would allow our uninhibited communion with Him.[15] It is because who Jesus is as the Eternal Word and Son of God, that the covenants are fulfilled in Him, and through Him that God is satisfied and man is graciously reconciled. Through the work of Christ and the reconciliation accomplished from it, veterans are forgiven for their anger.

Through the union with Jesus Christ and therefore perfect communion with God, veterans are never abandoned or isolated but in eternal communion and community with other believers. Through the atoning work of Christ all guilt and burdens are cast upon Jesus who bears the yoke and makes their burden is light. It is the Great High Priest who is also the Shepherd who said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV)  

Christ-Centered Counsel After Combat

There are veterans in churches all over America and the world. Currently there are an estimated 23 million veterans living in the United States and as time progresses the largest majority of those will be veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan whom have witnessed a high rate of multiple deployments, unorthodox warfare and significant combat exposure[16]. This simply means churches across the United States have almost a 100% probability of having one or more of these men or women in their congregations. Secular psychology and in particular those associated with veterans and military have widely acknowledged the existence and problem of post-traumatic stress. Though our purpose, methods, and ultimate end may differ, they widely acknowledge the need for pastoral counseling to help veterans and their families heal their souls and yet it is almost absent among discussions in evangelical circles[17].

The differences of physical impacts of traumatic stress have been separated from spiritual impacts. All of the spiritual effects after traumatic stress find their remedy in Christ through the application of his Holy Word by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Through Christ-centered counsel after combat, the angry find their desire in the glory of God and where they fall short they find their forgiveness in Christ. The grieving will find their hope in the New Creation where there will be no war. The grieving will identify with Christ who identified with them when he wept. The fearful will find respite in Christ, their rock. The fearful will rest in the provision of God who keeps them, even as they sleep. The guilty will find cleansing restoration in Christ and comfort in the sovereign control of an all-powerful and ever present God who commands even the seas to be still.

Pastors need to prepare themselves and their congregations for suffering and victory, faith and forgiveness by boldly proclaiming the whole counsel of Scripture and reaffirming what the Apostle Paul affirmed in 2 Corinthians even after his own trauma, He will deliver us. Congregations must be willing and ready to minister to families while they are deployed and when veterans return so that they can pray for each other, listen and care for one another, and provide Christian love and community to what will seem like an isolated existence. For the church this is not a question of if part of the body will suffer after traumatic experiences but have they already or how soon. Even so, He will deliver us.

Bibliography

Adsit, Chris. The Combat Trauma Healing Manual: Christ-centered Solutions for Combat Trauma. Newport News: Military Ministry Press, 2008.

American Psychiatric Association. National Center for PTSD. June 3, 2013. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/pages/dsm5_criteria_ptsd.asp (accessed October 26, 2013).

Bridge, William. A Lifting Up for the Downcast. Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2001.

Brock, Rita Nakashima. and Lettini, Gabriella. Soul Repair. Boston: Beacon Press, 2012.

Burroughs, Jeremiah. “Learning to Be Content.” In Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose & Provision in Suffering, by Nancy Guthrie, 161-167. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.

Eyrich, Howard and Fitzpatrick, Elyse. “The Diagnosis and Treatment of Idols of the Heart.” In Christ Centered Biblical Counseling, by James Macdonald. Eugene: Harvest House, 2013.

Fitzpatrick, Elyse and Hendrickson, Laura, M.D. Will Medicine Stop the Pain: Finding God’s healing for depression, anxiety & other troubling emotions. Chicago: Moody, 2006.

Paulson, Daryl S. and Krippner, Stanley. Haunted by Combat: Understanding PTSD in War Veterans Including Women, Reservists, and Those Coming Back from Iraq. Westport: Praeger Security International, 2007.

Slone, Laurie B. PhD and Friedman, Matthew J., MD, PhD. After the War Zone: A Practical Guide for Returning Troops and Their Families. Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2008.

Stott, John R. W. The Cross of Christ. Downers Grove: IVP, 2006.

Tripp, Paul David. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change. Phillipsburg: P&R, 2002.

“Veterans Affairs.” VA.GOV. April 2013. http://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/quickfacts/Population_slideshow.pdf (accessed October 12, 2013).

Vos, Geerhardus. Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation. Phliadelphia: P&R Publishing, 1980.

Welch, Edward T. Blame It on the Brain. Phillipsburg: P&R, 1998.

 

 

[1]American Psychiatric Association. National Center for PTSD. June 3, 2013. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/pages/dsm5_criteria_ptsd.asp (accessed October 26, 2013).

[2] Welch, Edward T. Blame it on the Brain. (Phillipsburg, P&R. 1998) 27.

[3] Slone, Laurie B. and Friedman, Matthew J., After the War Zone.(Philadelphia, DeCapo Books, 2008), 4-15.

[4] Fitzpatrick, Elyse and Hendrickson, M.D., Laura. Will Medicine Stop the Pain?(Chicago,  Moody Publishers, 2006), 168-170.

[5] Paulson, Daryl and Krippner, Stanley. Haunted by Combat: Understanding PTSD in War veterans including Women, Reservists and Those Coming Back from Iraq. (Westport, Praeger Security International, 2007), 46.

[6] Slone and Friedman, 67-8.

[7] Eyrich, Howard and Fitzpatrick, Elyse. “The Diagnosis and Treatment of Idols of the Heart.” In Christ Centered Biblical Counseling, ed. James Macdonald. (Eugene, Harvest House, 2013), 340.

[8] Adsit, Chris, The Combat Trauma Healing Manual: Christ Centered Solutions for Combat Trauma. (Newport News, Military Ministry Press, 2008), 31-35.

[9] Tripp, Paul David. Instruments in the Redeemers Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change. (Phillipsburg, P&R, 2002), 110.

[10] Fitzpatrick and Hendrickson, 125.

[11] Welch, 40.

[12] Bridge, William. A Lifting Up for the Downcast. (Carlisle, Banner of Truth, 2001), 129.

[13] Burroughs, Jeremiah, “Learning to Be Content” in Be Still My Soul,  ed. Guthrie, Nancy. (Wheaton, Crossway, 2010), 164.

[14] Vos, Geerhardus. Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, (Phillipsburg, P&R, 1980), 137.

[15] Stott, John R. W. The Cross of Christ. (Downers Grove, IVP, 2006), 124.

[16]  “Veterans Affairs.” VA.GOV. April 2013. http://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/quickfacts/Population_slideshow.pdf (accessed October 12, 2013).

[17] One of the most popular books available today dealing with the human soul and PTSD is affiliated with the Universalist and Unitarian Church, which is in no similar to evangelical theology. See  Brock, Rita Nakashima. and Lettini, Gabriella, Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War. (Boston, Beacon Press, 2012),  99.

He Will Deliver Us: Christ-Centered Counsel After Combat

He Will Deliver Us: Christ-Centered Counsel After Combat

Veterans are more numerous than most any other portion of the population. Every congregation likely has one or many. 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 this veteran? How many families are falling apart because of the battle warriors are facing that only begins on American soil? If you talk to pastors, sit in seminary classes, counseling programs or other ministries being championed by the local church there is a gaping hole in the ministries of almost every one of these churches staring right at them and it is once wore dog tags, combat boots and kevlar. Veterans are in desperate need of the few thing churches have to offer that no doctor, government agency, therapist or fraternal organization can offer; The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the care of a local congregation and a pastor who knows that though they may have some tangible physical needs that can only addressed by medicine, they have the ability to minister The Word of God that is the only salve for the soul.

As a Marine, a veteran, and one who knows the power of The Gospel of Jesus Christ, I am writing He Will Deliver Us: Christ-Centered Counsel After Combat to shine light upon this urgent issue that must become a priority for local churches lest we turn a blind eye to some of the people and families that need the gift we have received the most.

My preliminary outline is below and a topical introduction and thesis is available here 

He Will Deliver Us: Christ – Centered Counsel After Combat

Foreword

Why Counsel After Combat?

                (Intro/Thesis with quantifiable statistics of veteran data and issues)

What Are Veterans Facing After Combat?

PTSD and Moral injury

Survivors Guilt

Fear and Anxiety

Depression and Loss of Purpose

Family Dynamic

The Human Brain, Physical Symptoms and Neurology

Christ-Centered Counsel after Combat

                Gospel Gap: A Review of the resources and treatments that do not offer healing to the heart

                Gospel Hope: Victory, Peace and Rest for the warrior’s soul

                From Depression to Desire – Training the Heart toward the Glory of God

                        Forgiveness by Faith – Understanding the Providence, Sovereignty and                                 Grace of God

                        The Resurrection Reality – The Person and Work of Jesus Christ offers a                             real sense of safety and comfort both physically and spiritually.

Christ-Centered Counseling for Combat Vets

A Note to Pastors

A Note to Congregations (will a believing combat veteran please stand up?)

A Note to Friends and Families

Afterward: He Will Deliver Us, An encouragement to my believing brothers in arms

Appendix

                Stereotypes, Military Culture and Things to avoid when counseling vets

Christ-centered Counsel After Combat: Emotions, Pain and The Chief End of Man

He reluctantly walked into the church. The only reason he went was because his neighbor, an old salty Vietnam Vet named Jim who still flew the Marine Corps Colors high on the pole every morning, has been on his case to just go with him.

The moment the moving truck showed up in 2007 and Jim noticed the small sticker with an Eagle, Globe and Anchor in the middle pointing inboard on the SUV full of clothes and pillows, Jim knew he was going to have a neighbor that would be a brother.

Jim didn’t get along with many folks, as a matter of fact, the truth was that he was more comfortable alone except in the company of his immediate family and his “brothers” for the longest time. So for Jim to see images of his brotherhood move in across the street, it was like homecoming. It gave him an opportunity to try these new waters of “being social”.

He walked across the street and looked at the guy who was still somewhat trim and had the remnants of a very low reg haircut indicative of his short-timer status. “What’s your MOS?” – Jim barked with a gravely voice scared by years of drinking, smoking and yelling obscenities at anyone in his path. “What?” The new neighbor was caught off guard. All he wanted to do was run as far away from the Marine Corps as he could and here is some old guy asking about his MOS. He still believes that he never ran so fast in his entire enlistment as he did the day he turned in his checkout sheet and now someone wants to talk shop. “Why, did you serve?”  Jim replied, “Grunt from ’68-’73”. “I was a tracker in 2nd AAV, I hauled your butts around so you didn’t have to hump everywhere.”

That introduction and acknowledgement of each other glued an instant bond, not so much like a brother, but like a father to a son. Jim was now a Marine vet whose identity as a Marine had been replaced as a child of God, redeemed by Christ who had been providentially placed in the path of a younger Marine whose identity had still been wrapped up in his title as a Marine and his experience and trauma from war. God is sovereign like that. God is mysterious like that. God works miracles like that.

The tiny development of condominiums where they lived left little room for hiding noise or offering cover and concealment from how one really lived. Jim could see him drinking and yelling, storming out at all hours of the night. Jim could see hear him on the phone with his buddies from the Corps telling jokes and making fun of each other. Jim would go days and weeks and not see anything of him, and when he would peak out to get the mail or something he would look like he hadn’t bathed, shaved or slept in weeks.

Jim saw a little bit of himself across the street and he hurt for him. He saw brokenness, hopelessness, anger and pain. But unlike him, Jim was fighting a new kind of war. One that already had a certain victory but the battle enraged daily. Jim was on the winning side of the battle for his soul.

Just a few years back Jim lost his job ultimately because of his drinking and angry outbursts at his nasty civilian co-workers. All he wanted to do was drive deep into the forest and eat a .45 long colt but for some reason he couldn’t help but remember the verse on a church sign that he would pass almost daily that week as he would go to the store . “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…” Those words from The Gospel of Matthew resonated in his heart and was just the little shimmer of hope that he needed to turn back home instead of toward the forest. That next Sunday, with every bit of resolve and fortitude he could muster Jim showered, shaved and put clothes on for church and at 10:40 am he sneaked in the back avoiding eye contact, and staring at his pamphlet the silver haired old man gave to him on the way in. He hadn’t been to a church since his kids were baptized in a Catholic parish years ago and he was too drunk to remember his daughter’s wedding. He was unsure of what to do, so he sat there and eavesdropped and patiently awaited through the formalities of the order of service and then the pastor began to preach a message from the end of Matthew 11 and he was shown a picture of burden lifting grace in Christ that withdrew the weight of the world from his soul. By God’s grace he saw that he spent an entire lifetime trying to own the circumstances and results of something that was cosmically orchestrated so that God would ultimately be seen as the treasure that He truly is.

Jim did not know it, but those days of driving to and from the store to buy another bottle of Johnny Walker Black after he lost his umpteenth job were the days that God would begin to invade his life and engulf him with grace and the purpose for which all of his life has occurred, God’s glory. He saw that God is most glorified when we are most weak without Him. Jim saw that his emotions of pain and grief over loss and anger at those who do not understand him were meant to cause him to cry to Abba Father for shelter, and forgiveness and the cool waters of relief from Satan taught expectation of a carefree holiday-filled life. Jim learned that when he still struggles that he need only remind himself of the gospel of Jesus Christ, dead and alive again, that even today when he cannot see beyond his fallen distorted perception of reality that beckons him to see his trauma and sin as the center of his existence, that God reigns supreme and that is truth!

As stated in Does Grace Grow Best in the Winter? God does not waste his children’s suffering. This flew in the face of everything Jim expected. All he heard from his church going acquaintances was that they were just blessed to be there, life was always a blessing, and Jesus just brought smiles to their faces. Essentially Jim needed to learn how to deal with the reality that life was a struggle. Life was not all smiles, hugs and rainbows. Christians need to be authentic and true as the Bible they teach. His perception was that a “real Christian” wouldn’t have feelings of despair, depression and fear. Truthfully, death, loss and sorrow have been part of the lives of God’s people since the first act of war in The Garden of Eden.

So how does one help Jim? How does Jim help his neighbor? What got him to the point that he knew the only answer for his neighbor was the same burden lifting grace of God that he experienced?

He must be shown that trauma and the emotions he is experiencing are certainly normal for someone with his life experiences as a result of the broken state of God’s creation.Then he should be pointed to the overwhelming glory of God as displayed throughout Scripture and demonstrated in the person and work of Jesus Christ in all of its magnificent details and the hope of a New Heavens and New Earth where these burdens are but a distant memory as believers fixate upon the Throne of The King.

If the chief end of Man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then certainly veterans suffering from post traumatic experiences do not get a free pass, but instead their lives must be saturated with that purpose. The exchange on The Cross is what points hopeless veterans to the truth that He will deliver us.

The burden lifting grace of God reshapes the purpose of the memory of a fallen brother being carried away on a litter and rushed toward a medivac to one that can cause you to glorify God with gratitude because any action or inaction on your part was not only forgiven at The Cross but also orchestrated by the Author of Life so that ultimately He would be glorified in forgiving you.

The fear of imminent danger around crowds and alertness while laying in bed trying to fall sleep can be used to glorify God when you remind yourself of the eternal safety of the New Creation when pain, hurt and harm no longer exist.

The depression of wanting to be a part of something bigger than yourself again, as all of us veterans do, is swallowed up in praise as you realize that you have been adopted literally into Christ as a child of God and you are part of a global Body whose purpose is to shine the spotlight on the forgiving power of The Creator.

Ultimately, remind yourself of what Jesus’s blood has bought on your behalf. He has purchased your verdict that will read thus before the Judge: “Has this person lived in a manner that has always enjoyed God and glorified Him forever?” On this side of The Cross, the answer is a resounding yes!

Christ-Centered Counsel After Combat: Assurance and Freedom in Christ

Of all the resources out there for my fellow veterans struggling to find relief after war, There is only one true resolution to our woes and that is assurance and freedom in Christ. Freedom from fear of the unknown, freedom from the guilt for their actions at war, freedom to commit to a relationship and to be loved, and freedom from the guilt of their reactions as they face the reality that their life has changed after they experienced terrible things. William Bridge in A Lifting Up for the Downcast said “a man that lacks the assurance of God’s love, and of his interest in Christ, is fit neither to receive mercy from God, nor to make return of love and praise to God as he should.” He goes on to say lack of assurance leads to the misinterpretation of the mercies offered to him and that lack of assurance affords to many conversations with Satan. The veteran who lacks assurance has doubts, which is conversation with Satan, and then The Evil One bears false witness that he is not a child of God[1].This is ultimately where the combat continues. Veterans must be reminded of the sheer power, absolute truthfulness, and complete ruination of the power of death and guilt in Christ so that ultimately while their physical body may still show the effects of war, their hearts will wear the crown of victory.

The promises of God must be a reinforced and assured that they are true by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jeremiah Burroughs once said “God gives a man an eye to see the love of God in every affliction and as well as in prosperity.” And this eye looks upon what Christ has endured.[2] The Christian who bears guilt must be reminded to fixate upon the finished work of our Great High Priest. Geerhardus Vos said that through the priesthood of Christ in the book of Hebrews, the “the eternal covenant becomes religious ideal, since as a mere means to an end could not be eternal…and what is true of the covenant is true of the priesthood through which the believer attains the goal of all religion.” The goal attained is “through the Priest the people enter representatively into the safe sanctuary of perfect communion with God.”[3]Through the work of Christ and the Priestly office that God is satisfied and through which He may allow veterans suffering from guilt, fear, anxiety, anger and moral trauma to be reconciled to God. The goal of the priesthood throughout Scripture is to satisfy God so that He would allow our uninhibited communion with Him.[4]It is because who Jesus is as the Eternal Word and Son of God, that the covenants are fulfilled in Him, and through Him that God is satisfied and man is graciously reconciled. Through the work of Christ and the reconciliation accomplished from it, veterans are forgiven for their anger.

Through the union with Jesus Christ and therefore perfect communion with God, veterans are never abandoned or isolated but in eternal communion and community with other believers. Through the atoning work of Christ all guilt and burdens are cast upon Jesus who bears the yoke and makes their burden is light. It is the Great High Priest who is also the Shepherd who said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV)  

excerpted from: He Will Deliver Us: Christ-Centered Counsel After Combat  by Marc Mullins

[1] Bridge, William. A Lifting Up for the Downcast. (Carlisle, Banner of Truth, 2001), 129. [2] Burroughs, Jeremiah, “Learning to Be Content” in Be Still My Soul,  ed. Guthrie, Nancy. (Wheaton, Crossway, 2010), 164. [3] Vos, Geerhardus. Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, (Phillipsburg, P&R, 1980), 137. [4] Stott, John R. W. The Cross of Christ. (Downers Grove, IVP, 2006), 124.

Book Review: Suffering Well- The Predictable Surprise of Christian Suffering by Paul Grimmond

Suffering Well (cover)

If you want a book that fundamentally explains a correct theology of suffering, that should renew your mind and therefore your heart and soul during the trials of this life, buy this book!

Before I get into the book itself I would like to give the appropriate disclosure that the book was provided by Mathias Media in exchange for an honest and thoughtful review. I intend to do just that, albeit briefly. So do this ministry a favor and if I intrigue you enough to purchase, do so from their website-click on the picture to the left, they are from my estimation a wonderful group of humble Christians who have done the Church a great service.

In order to set the stage for the book and my ability to review the material with any credible authority, I feel it is important for me to confess my exposure to suffering in general. One of the beautiful things about this book in comparison to its peers in the topic of suffering, is that it seems to speak more directly to the topic of suffering as a Christian in light of two things: 1) A modern worldview that if God is God and God is good, then why do his people suffer at all? and 2) Suffering for Christ’s sake, in other words, Christian persecution.

On that note, I cannot with any honesty confess that I have been persecuted directly for my faith in any manner similar to the Apostles or martyrs and historic heroes of the faith like Martin Luther, or even the Puritan Pilgrims who left England in pursuit of their compulsion to freely worship. So to that I will give little comment as I am not in a position to argue based on anything except history and the Scriptures.

However, I can speak for an eternity on the topic of personal suffering and experience of pain. I battle daily with pain from nerve damage. Even worse, I have been scared that my child possibly had a terminal illness, I have witnessed my wife being wheeled into the operating room in order to correct a heart malfunction that had already threatened to take her life several times before. I have witnessed an honest man be falsely accused and his family be torn to shreds by public mockery and I have uncovered the remains of fallen brothers in arms on the battlefield. I have as much reason to doubt the existence of a good God as anyone, but by the grace of God alone I do not. Paul Grimmond, in this work, does an outstanding job outlining why Christians across the globe and in centuries past have not as well.

In God’s kind providence, my church has been going through a series in Job this summer, we have seen some of the similar topics explained and exposited in scripture that Grimmond shows us. What makes Grimmond’s work exceptionally helpful is the careful attention he gives to a proper view of God, and a proper worldview as it pertains to the purpose of life, the standard of morality and thereby the problem of suffering as it is perceived by those with an incorrect view of God’s sovereign control and intent in suffering and by those who understand that God does allow suffering in order to draw his people closer to him in faith and dependence upon his providence in their lives.

He responds correctly and logically after illustrating the common flawed worldviews of humanist and atheist understandings of God and suffering with biblical illustrations that counter their views which aim to clarify the true purpose in Christian suffering.

We see in the third chapter several examples showing that in our suffering we have a prime opportunity to show the world how God is our source of all hope, power, perseverance and righteousness. In our suffering we have the glorious opportunity to be brought to our knees in worship and submission before the perfect justice of a holy Creator God so that we might have the opportunity to have our self righteousness and self sufficiency revealed for what it is, that is, a damnable verdict of pride and idolatry before our God, Creator and Judge before it is too late.

As we moved into the fourth chapter we start to really see the proposition of the biblical answer to suffering put together. I think this is where Grimmond goes in for the kill..driving his point home methodically. But Why? That is the nature of the chapter and he answers it just as God did in scripture. It is all for the glory of His name. I even love how he predicts the reader’s hesitation to accept that answer and then responds with scripture again…”but who are you o man…?” And then the final blow to the folly of human logic. God himself is not only involved in our suffering, but he himself suffered.

I could end the review here and be justified in saying the book is worth the read, unlike other books on the same topic, which i have read at least ten of them, Grimmond disassembles the worldview of the prideful enlightened man and juxtaposes with what I call “a biblical logical paradox”. It only makes sense in scripture, because the world is backwards, not scripture.

Now we have the remaining chapters which I foresee a some readers wanting to skip ahead towards. Those are the chapters on suffering in general as a Christian, the predictable surprise as a human in this fallen world, and the suffering as Christian for the fame of Christ’s name, which is persecution. These are identified separately, rightly so. As I mentioned above I don’t have much experience in the persecution for Christ, but general suffering I understood, so I was grateful for the differentiation, I think it was an important clarification to make.

I could go on more on the specific details of suffering in persecution as well as during pain and suffering in this life, but I think my review hits home. If you want a book that fundamentally explains a correct theology of suffering, that should renew your mind and therefore your heart and soul during the trials of this life, buy this book! There is no greater read that is accessible to all reading levels that explains the correct approach to the bibles view of suffering and clarifies where the world has it all wrong.