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Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ —John 11:25
While researching the material for the new HomeBuilders study Making Your Marriage Deployment Ready, our writing team met with numerous chaplains, churches, and service members of all branches as we pursued a goal of ensuring our material was relevant to the challenges of military life today. One of the significant meetings was with a Gold Star widow near Ft. Hood. She insisted—maybe even stronger than that—that we include an exercise in the study which would walk a couple through the steps of having “The Talk.” This was an imperative! Her heart was that others who faced this tragedy would have the peace she experienced because she and her husband had that “talk” before his second (and final) deployment.
This dear couple had talked about all of the hard stuff—what he wanted his funeral to be like, where he wanted to be buried, what his vision was for her and for the children in terms of where they would live & if she would re-marry. Knowing that her husband had a deep faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, she knew that upon his death he was in heaven with Jesus. That was settled, for all eternity. And because they had talked about things that were uncomfortable—even difficult—when the time came she was able to plan his funeral and then spend tender time with his unit members when they arrived for the service, comfort her children and begin the grieving process.
Let me tell you about another couple who had “the talk”. . . . If you have heard of the Christian writer, Elizabeth George, and her husband, Jim, you know that this couple has written many wonderful books in service to all of us. A Woman After God’s Own Heart, Life Management for Busy Women, A Husband After God’s Own Heart, God Loves His Precious Children. . . . are only a few of the many, many books that this couple has written and spoken about in seminars and conferences. They can also tell the story of deployment. In 1990 Jim was an Army reservist called to active duty in support of Operation Desert Storm. In her book entitled Loving God with All Your Mind Elizabeth writes of this stressful time: “The fighting in Kuwait forced me to focus on more than the practicalities of putting meals on the table, providing clean clothes for my family, and being ready to teach Bible classes. I had to learn how to focus on today emotionally. I had to learn how to practice the five principles of preparing, planning, praying, proceeding, and then trusting God to provide when it came to the prospect of my husband going to war!” (p. 91)
In Chapter Nine, “Living One Day at a Time,” she goes on to describe the emotional roller coaster that her family went through as they prepared for Jim to care for his unit and to be deployed. Keep in mind that this was after 25 years of Jim pulling routine weekend duty—he was right on the verge of retirement. She found that the Scripture verse, Matthew 6:34, was what she needed to handle emotions: “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” She stepped through each day preparing, planning, praying, proceeding, and trusting God to provide . . . using those five principles to put boundaries around her thought life.
Jim and Elizabeth had “the talk” before he was to deploy. She describes this under the “planning” principle: “Jim talked to our daughters at length about what might happen and about what his deployment and even his possible death would mean for them. . . Jim and I also pulled together as a couple. We discussed every option, every step, every phase, even down to my asking Jim, ‘What do you want me to do if you don’t come back?’; Bless him, he anchored me by giving clear and specific instructions for the future.” (p. 95)
She calls her five step process the way to “win over worry.” Choosing to include “the talk” under her admonition “to plan” was part of what she and Jim decided to do in order to proceed carefully in their God-led family preparations for war-time separation. Another way to approach this same topic is for the service member deploying to write a personal letter to each member of his family—“just in case.” I recently found my father’s letter to my mother, which he had written before he went off to World War II from which he did return. This is a long-held practice and may be the way that you want to handle this.
True peace can only come from surrendering your heart and life to Jesus Christ. Knowing that God is sovereign in your life, no matter what & even during deployment, can take a Christian couple to the point of discussing the difficult matter of “what if the worst happens?” Our widow-friend in Texas, and Jim & Elizabeth George—and no doubt many others—can testify to the peace that can be given through communicating to each other what our deepest desires are.
Whether or not you and your spouse decide to discuss the possibility of the death of either of you during your deployment is a choice you will make. But it is not the most important decision you will make—that choice is so well put by Joshua in the Old Testament, “Then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . . . as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)
George, Elizabeth, Loving God with All Your Mind (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 1994/2005).
Montgomery, Mike & Linda and Morgan, Keith & Sharon, Making Your Marriage Deployment Ready (Little Rock: FamilyLife Publishers, 2008).
Questions to Share:
1. The decision to discuss matters concerning everything from funeral plans to a family’s future is a personal one for each couple. Talk about that decision—whether or not you want to have “the talk.” Give your reasons why or why not.
2. Take this time to also discuss your fears regarding death. If you want to settle the matter of where you will spend eternity, click here.
3. The Gospel of John has these verses for you to look up regarding your decision to receive Christ as your Lord and Savior: John 3:16, John 10:28, John 14:1-4, and John 11:25 (see above).
4. If you prefer to write a personal letter to your spouse or family regarding your desires for them in case of your death during deployment, perhaps this would be the time to do that.