A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

. . . that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. — Ephesians 1:17-19

It is no secret that my favorite book about military life as a Christian is Footsteps of the Faithful by Denise McColl. In it there is a chapter by Denise’s husband, Angus, in which he shares his heart about the demands of parenting while living the calling of military duty:

At times I have really become frustrated in my role as a military man and Christian husband and father. It is nearly impossible to live up to the expectations being placed upon me by Christian peers while meeting the demands placed upon me by deployments and duty schedules when I am in port. . . I often wrestle with the natural conflict between my calling to be a military man and my calling to be a Christian husband and father. Yet I continue to see that the Lord has given me a calling to do both well. . . I have decided that the best thing that I can do as a military man who feels called by God to ‘stay with it,’ is to look for other ways in which I can minister to my wife and family rather than to be frustrated by the ways in which I can’t. (p. 109)

The greatest single ministry of any military husband or father is intercessory prayer for his wife and children. One of the truly great benefits of being separated for long periods of time is that my prayer life becomes very well focused. I believe that a dedicated, well-focused routine of prayer for one’s wife and children is probably the greatest single commitment one can make to one’s family. We know that when we are in God’s will he pays keen attention to each of our concerns. . . One of my greatest privileges as a parent has been to pray specifically for the long term needs of my children over a long period of absence, and then to return home to see how wonderfully God has provided. It is not that I long for these separations so that I can enjoy interceding for my family, but rather that given the fact that these separations are a part of my calling, I have chosen to enjoy the privilege of interceding for them. I encourage husbands and fathers to form good habits of interceding regularly for their families. (p. 113)

Recently I read a blog post entitled “The Most Important Prayer for Our Kids” by Christina Fox on “The Gospel Coalition” website. I immediately connected her prayer with the heart of Angus’ plea to use the time during deployment to pray for your children, whether husbands and fathers or wives and mothers.

Here is the prayer recently shared by Christina Fox:

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are a gracious and merciful God, whose love is unending. You are always patient with me, forgiving me time and time again. I am so thankful for Christ’s death, which opened the curtain into your presence, allowing me to call you Abba.

I come before you today to pray for my children. I confess that I so often pray about their health and behavior more than anything else. I’ve prayed for their healing from illness and from surgeries. I’ve prayed for particular behavioral changes. I’ve asked for help and wisdom in dealing with tantrums and defiance and in weeding out discontent and selfishness.

But increasingly, I’ve come to see that while those prayers are good, that you hear them and accept them, there is one prayer that stands above them all. While asking for healthy bodies and good behavior certainly makes my life easier, it doesn’t address my children’s most serious and deadly ailment: their heart.

The most important prayer I can pray for them is that they would see their sin and need for you. I ask that you humble them before you. Pierce their heart so they would see their need for the gospel of grace. I pray that they would know there is nothing they can do to earn your love or to keep your love. Each time they stumble into sin, draw them back to the gospel and foot of the cross. I pray that they would be overcome and overwhelmed by your love for them, that their love in response would overflow beyond measure.

I pray, along with Paul (Ephesians 1:17-19), that my children would know the hope that is theirs in Christ. I ask that your Spirit would enlighten them, grant them wisdom and understanding. Give them a desire to know you more deeply and intimately.

You have been teaching my own heart that change happens from the inside out. Help me to parent them in this way. I ask that you would give me grace to speak to their heart and model the grace of the gospel in all my interactions with them. Please keep me from being a barrier between them and you.

I thank you for the power of the gospel. May it be the motivation for my children’s growth in you as well as my own. I thank you that because of Jesus, all is grace.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

Can you imagine praying that prayer, or your own similar version, for your children while deployed?  or while at home?  It might indeed be the most important prayer you could ever pray for them!

Work Cited:

Christina Fox’s writing “The Most Important Prayer for Our Kids” found on The Gospel Coalition blog.

McColl, Denise, Footsteps of the Faithful: Victorious Living and the Military Life (Orlando: Campus Crusade for Christ Integrated Resources, 1994)

Questions to Share:

1.  How has your spiritual life, and your prayer life in particular, grown during this time of deployment, whether you are home or away?

2.  How could you take Ephesians 1:17-19 and pray for yourself during deployment?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” . . . That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. — II Corinthians 12:9,10

We do not want to miss this grace—this pure grace of God that gets us from the excitement-building, heart-racing, glee-producing “Welcome Home” moment . . . through the adjustments and transitions which characterize reintegration. Hebrews 12:15 reads, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God . . .”, and reintegration done well will validate that it is God’s grace, and grace alone, that smooths the return home.

You will find a posting entitled “Greater Grace for Deployment” in the archives of Excellent or Praiseworthy.  In that posting we discussed the extreme demands on a marriage by multiple deployments. “Greater grace takes you from ‘I can’t do this anymore’ to ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me’” (Philippians 4:13).

Likewise the pure grace of God in reintegration takes us from “I didn’t expect homecoming to be anything but sweet” to “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). This grace is so powerful, so cleansing, so redemptive that I can only call it “reintegrace.” Indeed, God can take the strain of deployment and the uncertainty of transition and fashion it to be good because of His pure grace and mercy (Psalm 119:68).

If the journey of reintegration could be plugged into a GPS, the destination for a couple would be oneness. Genesis 2:24 states, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Oneness in a marriage is not just a physical relationship, but emotional and spiritual as well. A couple who is geographically separated longs for the day when they are physically reunited. But the reuniting must also take the form of an emotional and spiritual oneness for there to be the real sense that they are back together. This is the challenge . . . and requires an intentional effort to demonstrate grace in at least seven areas:

1. The Grace of Daily Mercies

Change is inevitable when someone goes off to war . . . and the family at home changes, too. There can be a tendency to “compare” trials. The one on the front lines of war lived with danger every moment. The one at home lived with day-to-day struggles and demands. You each endured hardships, and any “one ups-manship” can only create conflict.

Grace says, “I acknowledge your fears and challenges. I want to imagine what it was like to walk in your shoes for a while so that I can appreciate what you’ve been through!” If necessary, initiate conversations, ask questions and listen to the answers. Examine scheduling priorities in order to have time together and plan getaways during reintegration . . . all in order to cultivate oneness. Oneness in marriage glorifies God, so committing to do the hard work of transitioning from being apart to being together will be something God honors. This is a daily exercise. Each day will bring new opportunities to see how everyone has changed—and how God can bring you back to oneness.

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23).

2. The Grace of Kind Words

Both of you as husband and wife have taken on different roles during deployment, and sometimes there can be harsh, demanding tones and explosive arguments when tasks are not done in a certain way. The demands of battle require expediency . . . the demands at home require prompt attention. Barking orders to each other can be a natural outgrowth of what you have experienced.

Grace says, “Humility and gentleness will shine best through my smile and kind speech.” You are not each other’s enemy, and it may take time to view each other lovingly.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).  “Let your conversation be always full of grace . . . “ (Colossians 4:6a).

3. The Grace of Perspective, Patience, and Purpose

You are both tired—and excited. It may take time to get back to normal physical patterns after lengthy separation and then travel. This is when it is extremely important to remember that reintegration is a season . . . a journey. Be patient with each other. The spouse who found great significance in the mission downrange may need to regain purpose in a normal household routine—and the spouse at home needs to gradually let go of some of the responsibilities which he or she managed alone. Reintegration is a synchronized “dance” that takes time to re-learn so that you don’t step on each other’s toes!

Grace says, “I’m so glad we’re back together again, and I will be patient during this time of transition and help you to re-adjust . . . not criticize.”

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3,4).

4. The Grace of Forgiveness

The reality is that things may have happened during your deployment which will require difficult conversations . . . and forgiveness. Counseling with your chaplain, pastor, or Christian counselor may be necessary. Genuine repentance, taking responsibility for actions, and asking for forgiveness are steps one needs to take in order to begin the process of regaining trust.

Grace says, “I love you, and I am willing to pray with you and rely on God as together we learn to forgive.” Rob Green states in his booklet, Reuniting after Military Deployment: Help for the Transition, “Honestly, you cannot offer grace in your own strength. It takes a willingness to depend on Christ to show God’s grace through you. He is the only One who can give you the discipline and strength to consistently offer grace to others, especially when you are hurting” (p. 21).

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14,15).

5. The Grace of Healing

Whether your wounds of war are visible or invisible, God is the healer. Your time of excitement at reintegration may be overshadowed by a long discovery of what is now going to be “different” in your marriage. Chaplain (ret) Dan Nigolian tells of his experience with PTSD in an appendix to The Greatest Warrior edition of the NIV Bible, “I was feeling guilty because I couldn’t beat this and it was hurting my family. I hated the idea of seeing a psychologist and being on medication. But I hated damaging my relationships even worse, so I finally agreed to get help. I have concluded that it takes more courage to face what’s inside you than to face the enemy . . . As I continue to fight this I’m learning to appreciate the present. Right here and right now, I am loved by God and by my family. . . It was being exposed to the death brought on by war that led to my own personal battle. But there’s one person who’s defeated death and that’s Jesus (I Corinthians 15). So he can defeat the effects of death in me. And that’s my hope and my rest.”

Grace says, “We will walk steadfastly, and with hope, together in God’s grace through the darkness of injury or combat trauma into the light of His Son, Jesus Christ.”

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation (including war), will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38,39).

6. The Grace of Gratitude

The Apostle Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 5:18 that we are to “be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Give thanks in ALL circumstances—really? The truth is that it is through giving thanks that God’s light can shine even into the dark places of our lives—even in our disappointments, disillusionments, and discouragements. Ann Voskamp writes in One Thousand Gifts, “When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows” (p. 58). The transformation of a bitter attitude into one of humility . . . the transformation of a hurting marriage into a thriving marriage . . . it is all comes from a grateful heart proclaiming life from salvation freely offered in grace by Jesus Christ.

Grace says, “We thank God for bringing us back together, and we thank Him for all the ways He sustained us while apart.”

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6,7).

7. The Grace of Redemption

On the holy ground of deployment we can experience redemption. Reintegration can become a time of renewal . . . maybe even a time of “better.” Perhaps there have been “lessons learned” . . . relationships appreciated in new ways . . . spiritual growth bringing you closer to God and closer to your spouse . . . time to remember God’s faithfulness when busyness once reigned . . . awareness of new skills and confidence in abilities . . . new perspectives, even on pain. Ken Korkow, a Marine, shares in an appendix to The Greatest Warrior NIV Bible, “On my road to healing, I’ve discovered that God does not waste pain. If we allow him to, he will use it to shape us into the best version of ourselves.”

Grace says, “I wouldn’t have chosen deployment, but because of God’s goodness and love for us, He has taken our experiences and made something good out of them.”

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Rob Green summarizes truth about God’s grace in reintegration with this, “Your personal relationship with Jesus sustained you during the (time) you were apart, and your relationship with Christ can help you reunite, too. All hope is not lost. The stories of divorce, discouragement, and depression that you have heard from other couples do not have to be your story. Just as Jesus redeemed you from an eternity separated from God, just as he rescued you from the weapons of the enemy, in the same way he can help you overcome the threats to your marriage. The Lord can ensure that your story is one of reunion, oneness, joy, peace and thankfulness” (p. 6).

It’s all by His grace.  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).

Works Cited:

The Greatest Warrior NIV Bible published by Biblica, 2012.

Green, Rob, Reuniting after Military Deployment—Help for the Transition (Greensboro; New Growth Press, 2011).

Voskamp, Ann, One Thousand Gifts (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2010).

Questions to Share:

1. How did you see God work during the time you were separated geographically by deployment?

2. In what ways do you need to work on your marital relationship during reintegration in order for God’s grace to be revealed?

Small Groups on the Front

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. — 2 Timothy 3:16

I received an email from a friend today—deployed and with limited internet connectivity. She grabbed the cyber-opportunity to let me know how she was doing physically/mentally/spiritually and added: “ . . . went last night to my first women’s Bible study session here. It’s a small group that just got started a few weeks ago and we don’t have a formal study yet, but the fellowship will be invaluable.”

I cheered! The fellowship of believers in a small group is absolutely invaluable—priceless! To know that there is a core gathering of like-minded souls who will listen, pray for her, encourage her and whom she can encourage, understand and extend grace, teach and counsel, and hold her accountable—well, it warmed my heart. She’s living in 125 degree heat, but my heart was equally warmed by her news.

This was a good time for me to review some of the principles of small group study found in the classic The Ultimate Road Trip: A Guide to Leading Small Groups. Granted, we don’t know who will be leading my friend’s group, but the value of their gathering brings to mind that there are experiences on the battle front and on the home front which may cause a small group to have to be uniquely flexible (understatement).

So here are a few elements, just for reminders:

God never intended us to live the Christian life alone. . . God created us to use our strengths and abilities to build each other up. In small groups, different members of the body of Christ work together to encourage each other and build up the entire body of Christ. (p. 20)

People are God’s ultimate concern. . . When God became man, He said His purpose was to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He was talking about people. (p. 30)

All small group leaders need to be in the process of developing certain qualities: godly character, compassion, competence, and commitment. (p. 25)

On the Front (battle or home), the one who is the leader, or facilitator, of a small group may vary from week to week. Some weeks your group may be led to just share and pray. . . .other weeks you may have the opportunity to delve into Scripture for an extended time. Some weeks you may not even be able to meet, but you (somehow) want to stay “connected” and intentional about checking up on each other.

These four leadership qualities: godly character, compassion, competence, and commitment are spelled out in Scripture for us. None of us is perfect, nor is the leader required to be. But we are to learn and grow together. Stepping out in faith and spending time together learning about the Lord and growing in His grace is what this small group adventure is all about.

I. Godly Character—found in Colossians 3:1-17:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The need to be in the Bible, to confess your sins, and to seek to honor God in and through your life are steps to growth in godly character.

II. Compassion—found in Matthew 9:35-38:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Loving concern for those in your group will grow as you meet together and share needs, challenges, and victories.

III. Competence—found in 2 Corinthians 3:4-6:

Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Humility and faithfulness are two qualities which group leaders and members appreciate in each other. As you depend on the Lord, He will develop your abilities.

IV. Commitment—found in I Corinthians 15:58:

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Trust in the Lord to grow your group spiritually in His ways and in His time.

“My brethren. . .let us plainly and freely tell one another what God has done for our souls. To this end you would do well, as others have done, to form yourselves into little companies of four or five each and meet once a week to tell each other what is in your hearts that you may pray for and comfort one another as need may require. None but they who have experienced it can tell the unspeakable advantage of such communion of souls. None, I think, that truly loves his own soul and his brethren as himself will be shy of opening his heart in order to have their advice, reproof, admonition and prayer as occasions require. A sincere person will esteem it one of the greatest blessings.” (p. 5) from George Whitefield, 18th century evangelist in America

Work Cited:

Campus Crusade for Christ authors, The Ultimate Road Trip: A Guide to Leading Small Groups (Orlando: CruPress, Third Edition/2008).

Questions to Share:

1. Is there an opportunity for you to join a small group of Christians in prayer or Bible study during this deployment? If not, would you consider starting such a group?
2. How would you like to see God grow you spiritually during this deployment? (in trust? in prayer? in Scripture memory? in sharing your faith?)  How would being part of a small group help to make that happen?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. —  Philippians 4:13

I learned a lot during this deployment. It changed me. Let me share:

1.        I learned that I am stronger than I think.

No military wife is ever ready for deployment. From what I hear from other wives none of us really feel that we are strong enough to go through a deployment. But at the end when we look back, we are shocked at how much we came through and how strong we really are.

That is how it’s been with me. I look back and I think, “Wow, how did I do that?”  The answer?  I did it with God’s help, and also by taking it one day at a time. There were a lot of days that I look back on when I felt I couldn’t go on, but I didn’t have a choice in the matter so I kept on going. Those are the days that I believe make a person stronger—when you realize you don’t have a choice but to keep on going and so you do. And when you finally look back you realize how strong you really were, and how much of a stronger person you are now.

2.        I learned that trusting God is my only option.

It’s sad that it had to come down to a deployment to make me realize this. So many times I try to do things on my own and I don’t think about trusting God or having faith in Him to do what He needs to do. I wrote about trust the beginning of 2012 on my blog. I had picked the word “trust” as something to work on throughout the year. It’s funny because when you actively ask God to help you learn how to trust, then He is definitely going to put things in your life to help you learn how to trust. And those things aren’t always going to be what we think they are!

It was those times when I was at the end of my rope, when I felt like there just had to be something else I could do—that was when I heard God’s soft and still quiet voice that said, “Just trust.”  And that is what I learned:  at the end of it all and even at the beginning, our only option is to trust. Because if we don’t trust Him for the little things, then how can we trust Him for the big things in our lives?

3.        I learned that letting others help me is necessary and that’s ok.

If there is one thing I hear from military wives most, it’s that they are afraid to let others help them during deployment. Either they are too proud to ask or they don’t want others to think they are not strong enough to make it through the deployment on their own. For me it was a little of both.

Many events happened to our family during this past deployment over the span of 6 and a half months. It was pretty much impossible for me to get through a lot of it without asking for at least a little help. And that’s ok. It’s ok to ask for help. In fact I encourage you to do so if you are going through a deployment. Don’t be afraid!  A lot of military spouses see each other as family, and wouldn’t you want to ask your family for help if you needed it?  It took a wonderful woman at the beginning of this deployment forcing me to let her in my life and let her help to get me to see this. I am so glad I did.

4.        I learned that deployment can be a time for personal growth.

I feel like I learned so much about myself during this deployment. I feel like I grew as a person. I learned more about who I am, what I want, and a little about what makes me tick. If you are currently going through a deployment, let me encourage you to use this time to learn about yourself and to better yourself. See what things in your life you can work on improving before your spouse gets home. It will be amazing to see the results at the end of the deployment!

5.        I learned that deployment can make your marriage stronger.

At the beginning of this deployment I was absolutely terrified of what this might do to our marriage. Would we change?  Would our marriage change?  Would we even know each other at the end of all this?  Sure deployment is scary, and I think every deployment is different when it comes to your marriage. It depends on what place you are at in your marriage when the deployment takes place. It also depends on what you make it. Are you going to be an understanding wife?  Are you going to pray your way through?  Are you going to have a positive outlook even when you both may not feel like it or when you are both having a bad day?  Sure there will be times you are going to argue, or be short with one another, but, more than that, I found we were able to communicate our needs better.

We didn’t have any real face-to-face conversations. We emailed. And when you email, you have a response time in-between. It gives each of you time to think through a response. It also gives you a chance to write down your thoughts and feelings without getting interrupted. At times I felt frustrated that the communication was slow. But there were so many other times when I was able to really communicate how I felt about something through email, which gave him time to think about it and then give me a response—instead of us interrupting each other or arguing about it. Deployment CAN make a marriage stronger. You just have to find a way to do it. Don’t let it get you down. Find ways to encourage and strengthen each other.

And, by and through His grace, this deployment is over!

Questions to Share:

1. Make a list of things that God is teaching you through this deployment.

2. What do you believe God is teaching your spouse through this deployment?

Kathryn is a military wife who blogs on www.singingthroughtherain.net.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:12,13

On the battlefields of the Civil War, one hundred and fifty-one years ago, the troops of the Army of Northern Virginia (Confederacy) experienced an event called for by their president, Jefferson Davis. On August 21, 1863, they observed a “day of prayer and fasting.” General Robert E. Lee issued this order in response to President Davis’ request:

“The President of the Confederate States has, in the name of the people, appointed the 21st day of August as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer. A strict observance of the day is enjoined upon the officers and soldiers of this army. All military duties, except such as are absolutely necessary, will be suspended. . . . Soldiers! We have sinned against Almighty God. We have forgotten His signal mercies, and have cultivated a revengeful, haughty, and boastful spirit. We have not remembered that the defenders of a just cause should be pure in His eyes; that ‘our times are in His hands;’ and we have relied too much on our own arms for the achievement of our independence. God is our only refuge and our strength. Let us humble ourselves before Him. Let us confess our many sins, and beseech Him to give us a higher courage, a purer patriotism, and more determined will; that He will convert the hearts of our enemies,; that He will hasten the time when war, with its sorrows and sufferings, shall cease, and that He will give us a name and place among the nations of the earth.” Christ in the Camp, p. 56

Revivals were becoming more common in the camps of the Confederacy, so much so that when the War ended and the soldiers headed home (some with new-found faith), their spiritual fervency was instrumental in creating what we now call “the Bible Belt.” Christ in the Camp is a beautiful compilation of letters and reports from the field—chronicling what God brought about between chaplains, missionaries, and pastors and the soldiers and families whom they served during the Civil War. First published in 1887 by Chaplain J. William Jones, the book is over six hundred pages of actual accounts and correspondence which can only reinforce what was true then and now—our only hope is in Christ Jesus.

The introduction to the book is written by Chaplain J. C. Granberry, and includes this description of the military soldier:

“The martial imagery of which Paul (in the New Testament) was fond shows an analogy between the life of the soldier and the life of the saint. The centurion of Capernaum and the centurion of Cesarea were patterns of faith and of a devout spirit. The soldier’s habits of unquestioning obedience to orders, of trust in superior officers, and of freedom from anxiety about things for which he is not responsible, fit into the life of faith. . . . . I have nowhere witnessed more complete, symmetrical and beautiful examples of Christian character than in the army. . . Not recklessly, but with thoughtful and prayerful solemnity, they went into fierce battle; yet the peace of God which passeth all understanding kept their hearts against alarm. . . . To God be all the glory!” (p. 15-16)

The Northern counterpart to Christ in the Camp is the fascinating book entitled From the Flag to the Cross, published in 1872. Story after story of soldiers making decisions to follow Christ—both before battle and after battle, sometimes in the hospital and sometimes in prison—fills the pages of this book by Chaplain A. S. Billingsley. The book also tells of the contribution that the U.S. Christian Commission made to the spiritual life of the U.S. Army: “The efficiency and success of the Commission were wonderful. Beginning with eighteen members in 1861, before the close of the war it had engaged nearly five thousand delegates laboring for the temporal and spiritual wants of the men. Talking Christ to them, preaching to and praying for and with them, was the principal business of a great part of the delegates. In all, they preached to them over 58,000 sermons, and held with them over 77,000 prayer-meetings, and gave them 1,466,748 Bibles and parts of Bibles, 18,000,000 religious newspapers, 1,370,000 hymn-books, over 8,000,000 knapsack-books, and 39,000,000 pages of tracts, and wrote for them 92,000 letters. The total value of the whole amount contributed in four years was $6,291,107.68. With zealous hearts these noble brethren ‘went about doing good,’ relieving and comforting the officer, soldier, and sailor wherever they found them.’” (p. 333) Among the members of the U.S. Christian Commission, who served side-by-side with chaplains, was pastor and evangelist Dwight L. Moody.

I particularly enjoy the vignettes of interviews held by chaplains with soldiers in From the Flag to the Cross. One such visit between a hospital chaplain and a soldier yielded this exchange:

“While it has often been said by the thoughtless and careless, ‘We can’t live out religion in the army;’ and although it is often said by a certain class of professors, ‘the army is a hard place to be a Christian, and live it out,’ yet at our first interview with James H. Finney, 1st N.Y. Engineers, we found him entertaining a very different view, and being fully conscious of the enjoyments and consolations of the Christian religion, he says, ‘It would be hard to live in the army without it.’ Opposed, as we are, by the combined powers of the world, the flesh, and the devil, life at best is a warfare from the cradle to the grave. And although the temptations are greater and the restraints weaker some places than others, yet, since God’s grace is sufficient at all times and under all circumstances to guide, guard, and sustain the believer, he can, if he will, at all times walk worthy of his vocation, and so live and act that his life will be an embodiment of the great doctrines of the cross of Christ. And it is impugning the wisdom, mercy, powers, and grace of God to say that he cannot.” (p. 139-140)

So we have begun with a call to prayer on the battlefield and ended with a call to faithfulness from a wounded soldier to his chaplain. Perhaps some things in military life have changed, but the charge given above from 2 Corinthians 12:9 will never change: “But He (the Lord) said to me (the apostle Paul), ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Are you feeling weak today? Remember that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” ( Hebrews 13:8)  He is the same Christ who ministered to soldiers in the Civil War, and He can minister to you today. Call to Him—He will answer. He loves you!

Work Cited:

Jones, J. William, Christ in the Camp (Harrisonburg: Sprinkle Publications, 1986. Originally published by B. F. Johnson & Co. in 1887)

Billingsley, Amos S. From the Flag to the Cross (Birmingham: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2006. Originally published by New World Publishing Co. of Philadelphia in 1872)

Questions to Share:

1. Chaplain Granberry refers to Philippians 4:7. Look that up in a Bible, and then read verses 8 and 9 which follow. How does Paul say that the God of peace can be with you?

2. In what ways does studying what was demanded of soldiers in the past inspire you to fulfill your mission today?

Evening Prayers With Chaps

Written by Chaps. Filed Under Prayer, Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Editor’s Note: We have the privilege of reading four days’ worth of evening prayers from a Navy chaplain. What he shared with others on his ship is encouragement to all of us.

Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise His name, proclaim His salvation day after day. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples. — Psalm 96:1-3

Day One—The Best Ship in the Navy

I wanted to thank you personally because, though we are logging long hours, we are having a good turn at the wheel and we are building our team one cat shot and trap after another. Looking deeper within the skin of the ship, the CIC, Galley, Engine Rooms, Admin Spaces and more are all turning out what keeps us moving and keeps us safe.

Together we are answering the question, “What is the best ship in the Navy?” I see it one shipmate at a time. I see it in Leadership, Ownership, Stewardship, Partnership, Relationship, Fellowship, Kinship and all leading up to today in Worship. When we have all these, the best ship in the Navy is a by-product. “Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for God’s glory” (I Cor 10:31).

Let us Pray: Wondrous God, as we pause during our busy schedule of flight ops and simulations, we invite Your presence. Where our journey is long and across many waters, we recognize that in the beginning Your Spirit moved across these waters and You gave life to all that followed. Today, as we follow Your Spirit and as He continues to move among the waters we sail upon, may Your breath fill us with new life and offer rest into the deck plates of our ship. Amen.

Day Two—The Rally Point of Our Flag

While observing Ft. Sumter under fire, Francis Scott Key wrote what became our National Anthem. During the bombardment, he saw bombs bursting in air and the rockets red glare from the shells of mortar attacks.

However, he did not stop at the awe of the rockets and bomb bursting. His focus was on the flag. “And the flag was still there.” His flag was more than just a symbol . . . It was a rally point that stood for something larger than someone just leaving the light on. As long as it stood, the U.S. troops still prevailed and the devices of the enemy were still thwarted.

Just as important were the principles of freedom that remained and the sacrifices it took by each soldier–the sacrifices and will to sustain that freedom under adversity. The soldiers stood for something, rather than fall for anything.

Tonight we rest easy, not because of our own efforts. We stand upon the shoulders of others and continue to stand upon the principles of freedom and You as its source.

Let us Pray: Lord, where our daily trials challenge us and the winds and waves have buffeted our bows, help us to be mindful within the battles we wage. As Francis Scott Key discovered, may we also discover that our flag and You as our rally point are still there. May we not fail and our hearts prevail upon the freedoms found with Your sacrifices that others may live. Amen.

Day Three—The Impact of Small Things

The small details of our life offer a huge impact on our mission. We have been conditioned to identify things that would otherwise be missed:

The conditioning of our faith also makes a difference. In the mustard seed of faith parable, a tiny seed settles into a small crack and makes a huge impact.

Where is your seed of faith placed?

Let us Pray: Father, as we replay the events of the day in our mind and prepare to rest, we ask that You help our faith grow where we find rocks in our path. We ask that Your faith would become ours so that we may be found faithful in all we do. Amen.

Day Four—Knowing He is God

Knowing and understanding are oceans or worlds apart.

As Navy professionals, we strive to be proficient in our roles and rates. This proficiency makes us the best Navy in the world and lets us project influence that has no equal. As a global force for good, we can turn the neck of tyrants and the tides of battles.

How does God turn our heads and the tide of our battles? By knowing Him. We can either grow through our battles or go through them.

How then do we move past a knowledge of God toward an understanding of God?

God’s answer arrives with two commands in one breath. “Be still and know He is God” (Psalm 46:10). In order to know He is God, we must be willing to be still. Still enough at times to hear His still small voice.

Let us Pray: Lord, as we pause for this brief stillness of prayer and listen within the battle rhythm of our planes, turning of our screws and visions within our scopes . . .May we hear Your standing orders. As You speak, may we know more of You and less of us. May we embrace You as our source of strength and the life that comes from You. In our purposes, may we find Your presence. May we rest this night and be still, so that we can know You are God. Amen.

Questions to Share:

1. How difficult is it for you to be still for a moment during the day, so that you can hear from God? Share with each other your efforts to make this possible.

2. How have you seen your faith grow during this deployment? How have you been able to encourage spiritual growth in your spouse during this deployment?

Beautiful Lessons in a Bad Day

Written by Bekah. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. — Matthew 6:33-34a

On the worst day of last week I walked into the garage to find a female cardinal had trapped herself above my open garage door and broken her neck. She was flailing around on the cement and I couldn’t do anything for her. I didn’t know how to kill her mercifully and was too afraid to try to comfort her in a towel. I was helpless and utterly useless. The only thing I could do was talk to her. So I didand then I sang her an old hymn, His Eye is on the Sparrow.

Life has been very difficult here lately. My husband is deployed, my five-year-old is struggling with ADHDso I’m struggling, and I’m fighting a currently un-winnable battle with secondary infertility. It’s overwhelming and I often feel I’m drowning in my own swamp of worry.

Like the bird, don’t we sometimes feel so helpless in this world? There are so many bad things going on and so little we can really do to make any changes. But we can know and serve the One who can change anythingthe Creator of all things. God knew we had these tendencies and He addressed them in the Bible in Matthew 6:25-34. Through the writer Matthew, God tells us not to worry six times in just nine versesHe knows I need repetition!

Civilla Martin’s words capture the essence of these words of Scripturewhether or not she planned it. Do you know the hymn?

Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

I know it’s ridiculous to sing to a dying bird. So you’ll think me even crazier in saying that she quieted down and seemed to listen to me sing it. It’s a little far-fetched, but what if she knew the truth of the song? What if birds somehow know their value and are content in it? They were made to live and work and glorify God and that’s what they do. They don’t seem to struggle against God’s will for their lives. They build their nests, hunt for food and raise their young. And when they suffer or even when their lives are over, it is a total surprise, because they were simply living. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? —Matthew 6:26

The next verse of the hymn says:

Let not your heart be troubled,’ His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

Worries and fears can sink us—they exhaust our energy by consuming our thoughts. But, why?

Questions to Share:

1. God has promised to take those and provide for our needs. Have you forgotten about the daily business of living for Him?

2. Are God’s promises things you know or are they things you live?

How Not to Help

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family, Prayer

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27

I am always on the lookout for good marital “helps”—especially concerning military marriages. The challenges of military life are so many and the stresses so high we need to be on high alert concerning the state of our own marriage and those of our friends.

I especially appreciate articles which give advice to help friends help friends. You know—you want to help others with troubled marriages but just don’t know how . . . and are especially fearful of “making things worse.” It’s rare to find such help.

But I recently found one such article on Crosswalk.com entitled, “How to Help A Troubled Marriage”, by Joe Beam.

The five points he listed under the heading, “Do Not Do These Things”, were particularly helpful.  I have quoted them below and added my own assessments:

1. “First, do not listen to one side of the story and think that you understand the situation.”  I’ve done this before, and perhaps you have, too . . . only to find out that you didn’t get all of the facts and almost acted from a biased assessment of what was happening in your friends’ marriage. And you certainly didn’t get enough perspective to be able to help! Proverbs 18:17 says it this way: “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” A wise friend knows that there are always two sides to these situations. Be especially careful to avoid listening to marital problems from a friend of the opposite sex without your spouse or trusted help present. Even if you think you can listen and help in these situations, they can lead to misunderstandings and worse—new relationships.

2. “Second, do not believe everything either spouse says.”  Closely related to the first point, this warning is clear. Perspectives can be skewed when hurt, anger, disillusionment, fear, etc., are involved. One spouse may put the spotlight on the other because of their own guilt over something. It’s best to listen but not form any prejudices.

3. “Third, do not help anyone do wrong.”  Helping to conspire in a manipulation or scheme that you might think “helps” is risky—and possibly deceptive. Sometimes friends ask for “cover” in order to do something immoral. Be careful—“The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.”  (Proverbs 12:22)

4. “Fourth, do not believe that a couple should divorce because their problems seem hopeless.”  We have all known couples who have split up because their friends agreed they should . . . not truly understanding that God is in the redemption business—“All things are possible with God.”  There is so much help available—in good Christian counselors, wise pastors and chaplains, weekend marriage conferences, small group Bible studies focused on marriage, mentoring with older couples, great books . . . there is much hope! Possibly the best gift you can give a hurting couple is hope! Certainly boundaries are necessary when there is physical or emotional danger—but for most couples there are answers to their deepest problems!

5. “Fifth, do not hesitate to ask for assistance to help a marriage in crisis.” My husband and I know Christian counselors to call—if that seems to be the help a couple needs. Pastoral help through churches and chapels is valuable. We have weekend getaways to recommend (FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember is the best!). We use Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ Love and Respect book, Art of Marriage DVD seminars, The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman, HomeBuilder small group Bible studies, etc.—many resources in our “tool box” ready to use when necessary.

The best friend you can have is one who is a friend to your marriage. And the best thing you CAN do for a marriage is to pray for it. Dr. George Kenworthy’s excellent book, Before the Last Resort, includes an appendix with clear steps to take to help your friends’ marriage—and also to pray for their relationship, however troubled it might be. Certainly this book is a great resource to refer to and to give away.

God’s blueprints for marriage apply to all marriages—including military marriages. They are found in Genesis 2:24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus concludes that truth with: “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:6)

You can help friends with their marriage . . . with some definite “don’ts” and some definite “dos.” But start in prayer . . . “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

Questions to Share:

1. How could you prepare to help a friend whose marriage is in distress?

2. Ask your spouse how you can pray for them today. Pray also for your friends’ marriages, for them to be strengthened with the challenges of military life.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me. — Psalm 50:15

Living the Christian life. Living the Christian life in the military. Living the Christian life in the military during deployment. It’s all difficult, right? Some would say impossible, but we know better. On a scale of one to God, nothing is impossible.

As Christians who know God’s abundance and how He gives graciously and mercifully to us in every circumstance, we can still struggle with expressing to others exactly what “living the Christian life” means.

Theologian John Piper has for many years spoken on “what it means to live the Christian life” with three biblical phrases:  1) Living by Faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20); 2) Walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16); and 3) Serving in the Strength That God Supplies (I Peter 4:11).

But Piper goes on to explain what those phrases mean in everyday terms—by using an acronym, A.P.T.A.T. As Piper says, “It (the acronym) doesn’t mean anything. I just find it easy to remember.” The simple acronym summarizes in five distinct steps “the practical biblical meaning of living by faith, or walking by the Spirit, or serving in the strength God supplies.” Why? “So that Christ gets trusted, you get helped, people get served, and God gets the glory.” http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/practical-help-for-praying-for-help

Here are John Piper’s five APTAT steps:

A – I acknowledge that without Christ I can do nothing. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

P – I pray that God would make me love as Jesus loves, and work in me all that is pleasing to him. “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:21)

T – I trust the promise of God’s help and strength and guidance. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

A – I act in obedience to God’s word. Doug Heil asked me last Sunday if Philippians 2:12 fit my acronym: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”? I said yes, because look at the ground clause which follows: “for it is God who works in you to will and to do his good pleasure.” Yes! Yes! We act. We obey! But what keeps this action from being a “work of law” is that we have acknowledged our helplessness, prayed for enablement, and trusted that precisely in and under our working and willing it is God who does the work! Therefore our act is a fruit of the Spirit not a work of the flesh. “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12)

T – I thank God for whatever good comes. I give him the glory. “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (I Peters 4:11)

Since Piper states he has practiced APTAT consistently for the last thirty years, we would do well to examine exactly how this applies to Christian life in the military—specifically to deployment. If Piper is right, and his acronym APTAT is an aid to focus on making wise choices, facing obstacles, maintaining Christian integrity, and experiencing joy in spite of struggles, then we can ask, “What does APTAT look like in deployment?” Because if it is true, then it is true for deployment.

In deployment, “A” would mean—Admit that without Christ you are helpless in this deployment.

Christian military couples are competent and confident . . . always covered by the humility of knowing their strength comes only from their sovereign Lord.

“P” would mean—Pray for God’s help for this deployment.

Pray before, during, and after deployment. Pray for God’s leading, His protection, His peace. Pray for your family. And every time you communicate with your spouse, ask “How can I pray for you?” Then do it—and later ask, “Remember how you asked me to pray for _____. How did God answer my prayer?”

“T” would mean—Trust in a promise of God suited to your need in this deployment.

Write down your favorite Bible promises (Piper’s favorites are Isaiah 41:10, Romans 8:32, Matthew 28:18, 20). Keep these in your pocket or wallet, on your mirror, placed everywhere you need to keep them “front and center” in your life—as much as possible.

“A” would mean—Act with humble confidence in God’s help during this deployment.

Perhaps God will lead you to help someone else in their Christian life. Take the faith that you have to serve others—and to speak to them of the peace that you experience.

“T” would mean—Thank God for the good that comes from this deployment.

Keep your eyes and heart open for how God is growing you spiritually during these months of deployment. And thank Him for how He alone is working in your life.

Piper closes his 1988 teaching on APTAT with a reminder on prayer: “The first two (steps) and the last are acts of prayer. So let us enter this (week) with a deep awareness that prayer is not a mere devotional interlude in the real business of living; it is the pathway of faith and obedience. There is no other.”

I pray that your prayer life during deployment will grow as you use APTAT steps, or however God leads, to come to Him regularly with what concerns you during this deployment.

Work Cited:

Hear and read John Piper’s entire sermon on APTAT at:


Questions to Share:

1. In what ways can you apply these five steps to your daily life as a Christian in the military?

2. What unique spiritual challenges are you facing now that you can share with your spouse?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. – Colossians 4:6

I’ve made a list of things people hate to hear when their spouse is deployed. Perhaps you could add to this list, but these are the statements about which I’ve heard complaints:

“I’m sorry.”
“I know how you feel. I was a single mom.”
“I know how you feel. My husband was away on business last month.”
“I don’t know how you do it!”
“Stay busy—it’ll go quickly.”
“You knew what you were in for when you married into the military.”
“At least he’s not in Afghanistan” or “At least he’s not in Iraq.”
“I watch ‘Army Wives’, so I know what you are going through.”
“At least it’s only six months and not fifteen months, like I went through.”
“At least you don’t have any kids (or have a job or fill in the blank) and have all that extra work.”

Honestly, and I think you would agree, most folks are just trying to “connect” with you. They don’t know what to say, so they feel the need to say something—and it just comes out wrong. We’ve all done it and lived to regret what we’ve said when the tables were turned–and we knew better.

So what do we say when we’re wanting to encourage someone whose spouse is far away in service to our country? What would be gracious—not seeking to assume or compare what that person is going through? I’ve “collected” ten ideas from which to choose and modify—and of course will be willing to add more, if you will make suggestions. Here they are:

“Thank you for your service to our country, and to our Lord.”
“How can I pray for you?”
“I admire your courage and sacrifice. You have my deepest respect and appreciation.”
“What can I do to help you in a practical way?”
“The world is a better place because of what your family is doing.”
“You represent what is good in our country.”
“Your children are also serving, and we appreciate that.”
“It is because of your bravery that we are able to live in freedom and security.”
“Thank you for your commitment to bring freedom to nations who desperately need it.”
“Your sacrifice and service is not in vain. We will remember what you did.”

Perhaps you think these responses are “too wordy”, and a sincere “thank you” would warm your heart if your spouse was deployed. But other ExcellentOrPraiseworthy readers might ponder them in order to be prepared for a good response when faced with the opportunity to encourage.

But let’s consider this from the flip-side . . . what do we graciously say to someone after they have said something which could have hurt our feelings? Don’t we want to be mature in our attitudes, understanding that others could not possibly understand what we are going through?

Let me include two wonderful quotes from two military wives whom I admire—to help in this effort. Sara Horn writes in “With a Little Help from My Friends” from Military Spouse magazine (June 2010):

“Civilian was ‘they’ and military was ‘me.’ ‘They’ actually tried equating their husbands’ business trips to my husband’s trip to the sandbox: so not the same thing. I was a military wife. Well, suddenly-military wife would be a more accurate term. Guard and Reserve spouses are suddenly thrown into a military existence when their service members deploy. And suddenly-military wives can be prone to seeing everything through one filter: the ‘My Life Has Changed Forever and No One Has a Clue” filter . . . . But hindsight, they say, is 20/20 . . . . I finally realized I had placed a whole bunch of expectations on them—standards and beliefs that weren’t necessarily fair . . . .” (p. 62)

Another perspective—because we need perspective in handling deployments with grace—is from my all-time favorite military-wife-book Footsteps of the Faithful by Denise McColl when she was a young mother of five, and wife of a submariner. She wrote:

“ ‘I don’t know how you do this with five young children. . .’ people often say. And each time my response can either be a trite and nonchalant, ‘Well, it isn’t all that bad . . .’ or a spiteful ‘I don’t know how I do this either! He’s sure going to make up for this when he gets home!’ Or it could be (and this takes both boldness and humility), ‘Well, I’m only doing this by God’s grace, as Jesus does a good work through me. When I don’t listen to Him and obey, I can say for certain that I don’t do a very good job at this at all . . .’” (p. 137)

The truth is that there is only one who can truly understand what we are going through—one who has experienced all pain and loneliness—Jesus Christ. It is to Him we must run when we have our feelings hurt, when we are overwhelmed, or misunderstood. Running to anyone or anything else . . . . will eventually disappoint, or worse—ruin.

Respected Bible teacher, Jill Briscoe, commented on this foundational truth when her husband, Stuart, was traveling for an extended period of time: “Years ago I stopped looking to anyone but God to satisfy me. There is no man that can love me enough. No child that can need me enough. No job that can pay me enough. And no experience that can satisfy me enough. Only Jesus.”

In conclusion, I like what Oswald Chambers, the author of My Utmost for His Highest, had to say about this subject.  He was a chaplain in World War I, serving in the camps near the front lines in Egypt.  In his writings on Job 8:7-10 he says, “Over and over again during this war men have turned to prayer. . . . The biggest thing you can do for those who are suffering is not to talk platitudes, not to ask questions, but to get into contact with God, and the ‘greater works’ will be done by prayer (see John 14:12-13).  Job’s friends never once prayed for him . . . .”

Pray for each other.  Pray for yourself.  Pray for those who want to help, and say the right thing, but just don’t know how.  Pray to grow close to Jesus.

Work cited:

Chambers, Oswald, The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 2000), p. 56.

Horn, Sara, “With a Little Help From My Friends,” Military Spouse, June, 2010, p. 62.

McColl, Denise, Footsteps of the Faithful (Orlando: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1994), p. 137.

Jill Briscoe quoted from Alistair Begg’s Truth for Life broadcast “Contentment or Corruption, Part Two, B”, August 11, 2010.

Questions to Share:

1. What has someone said to you when your spouse was deployed that really encouraged you?  Why was that particularly helpful?

2. How can you best encourage each other as a couple while you are geographically separated during deployment?

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