by Chaplain Daniel Gard
Since 2001, America has engaged in a long war against terror. Christ alone provides comfort to this new generation of veterans who has left home, served and returned.
The Spirit of God moved across the formless, dark void that was to become the earth. By His Word, He called the universe into existence, formed the earth and began time. But in time, the crown of His creation rebelled. Sin entered the world, and with sin came death. Soon Cain would murder his brother, Abel, as the dark cloud of sin moved over human history. From that day to this day, brother has warred against brother as a desperate creation rebels against its Creator.
Throughout her history, the United States has defended freedom at home and around the world. Young people have donned the uniform and, as citizens of the kingdom of the left (the state), have left their towns, cities and countryside to protect the ones that they love. Most returned home. Some did not. But to all who have served in war and peace, we say, “Thank you.” ++++
Since 2001, America has engaged in a long war against terror. A new generation of veterans has left home, served and returned. These are remarkable people who use words rarely heard in our contemporary culture: Honor. Duty. Integrity. Commitment. Loyalty. Country. They understand that the real definitions of words like these are not to be found on the paper pages of a dictionary. Rather, they are found in the lives of their shipmates and comrades and in the lives of the families that love them, pray for them and await their return.
And almost all do return home and transition back to normal, productive civilian lives. For some, however, that transition is more difficult. Some bear visible or hidden wounds of war in their bodies. Still others bear the wounds of war in that deepest part of the mind that cannot leave behind the traumatic scenes of war but consciously or subconsciously relive those scenes. Medical personnel stand ready to assist all who bear these wounds of war as the instruments of God in bringing about healing.
But there are other wounded warriors that no surgeon or psychologist can help because they bear wounds, not of the body or mind, but of the soul. Those wounds are inflicted by seeing things and doing things that violate the conscience of a human being. They manifest themselves in a variety of ways–inability to forgive, loss of purpose and meaning, loss of hope for the future, loss of trust in God and a multitude of other profound spiritual distresses. Such wounds cannot be “fixed” by surgery, medication or psychotherapy.
There is one cure alone: the eternal Gospel of our God–He who was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world to Himself. It is in the water of Baptism and the eternal promises of the Christ, who died and rose for the sin of the world. It is in the sweetest words a human being can hear, “Your sins are forgiven.”
It is in the Supper where the Lord of heaven comes to us sinners in His body and blood. It is in Christ, who “was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:5).
It is in the Church that the wounded warrior finds Jesus and the healing of the soul. In the parish–whether small or large, country, urban or suburban–there is a pulpit and altar, and there alone true and eternal life is given and sustained. For the warrior now deployed, it is that home church so far away that ties him or her to a reality greater than the one before his or her eyes. For the veteran now home again, it is that church that speaks to the deepest issues of forgiveness, peace and hope. For the family who waits for the return of their warrior, it is the Church–the communion of saints–that sustains with Word and Sacrament.
The world continues to rebel against its Creator. There are and will be wars and rumors of wars. But our Lord Jesus continues to come into the midst of that fallen world and embraces every human soul with His love and forgiveness and peace. Those who are in Him are never alone. Our Lord promised His people as they prepared to take the Promised Land, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6). And His promise is still true.
A Healing Transition
The forthcoming Men’s NetWork video Bible study, Warriors of Faith–Military Men, focuses on military warriors, addressing the unique and profound experiences they share. Written and hosted by Steven Hokana, an Army chaplain with 27 years of experience, this multi-part, military-themed Bible study takes aim at the issues of anger, grief, guilt, forgiveness and love as each plays out for veterans and the family and friends waiting for them at home.
The experiences binding veterans together are deep. While military service is positive for many, others suffer with long-term struggles. Psychological shock, physical injuries and emotional trauma are the “stuff” of active-duty military service in battle zones. Warriors of Faith–Military Men and its accompanying discussion guide will prove a valuable outreach resource for congregations to invite veterans from the community to men’s groups and Operation Barnabas chapters (see pg. 25), as they assist returning service personnel getting in sync with their lives on the home front. Go to www.lhmmen.com to learn more.
About the author: Chaplain Daniel Gard is deployed in support of operation enduring freedom.