A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. — Philippians 4:8

You would think after writing and editing for Excellent or Praiseworthy for six years that I would have read, heard or thought about everything to be learned from Philippians 4:8. You would think I would have exhausted the lessons from Paul’s challenge to focus on everything true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. And taking those virtues into the arena of deployment might have been more than most thought plausible—but we have explored lessons from history, spiritual training, teaching for marriages and families, and prayer encouragement in order to focus on the challenges of military service in light of God’s truth in Scripture.

But recently I was challenged by teaching I had never considered. That is taking Philippians 4:8 into one of the most normal, everyday struggles of marriage—conflict between husband and wife.

Picture this—a husband knows that his love language is “words of affirmation.” He thrives on kudos . . . and doesn’t shrink from enjoying praise because of his good work, even godly work. Because his wife’s love language is “acts of service”, she wants his help with the work around the house—including parenting—instead of listening to what good things happened at work. But after a while he feels disrespected because of her lack of interest in his need for affirmation. After a while, she feels unloved because of his lack of desire to help with her needs.

What transpires is not a fight (well, sometimes) . . . but mostly isolation. Coldness. Distance. And before long his thought life goes to, “’She doesn’t respect you like she ought to because you’re doing big things for God, and she is just here cleaning the house.’ . . . (Satan) starts running her down in my mind, and I accepted those thoughts. And I start getting frustrated with my wife: ‘She’s not loving me, respecting me, or supporting me like I think she ought to.’”

This husband goes on to say, “In my mind, I would run her down. Sometimes, in her mind, she would run me down. Guys, you do not win those wars. We’re not fighting the right way. Instead of fighting for my marriage, I was fighting her as if she was my enemy. She is not my enemy!  This is what the Lord taught me in the process.”

And lest you think this is some random guy—these words are from Alex Kendrick, producer and actor in Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous . . . and author of The Love Dare. He spoke recently on the FamilyLife “Love Like You Mean It” Cruise and shared this story.

Kendrick went on to speak to those on the cruise, “Four months ago, I’m studying and getting ready to do our ramp up and do our next movie and stuff—as I’m with the Lord, and I remember I’m in His Word—and it was like He just kick-boxed me in the head: ‘Alex, you are running your wife down in your mind. She is not your enemy. The enemy wants to distract you, deceive you, and divide you. Your wife and you are one unit. Both of you are sinners, and both of you are in need of My grace.”

Feeling the Lord leading him to remember that his wife, Christina, is God’s gift to him and designed by God to have strengths which he lacked . . . Kendrick began to make a list of whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute—about Christina!

He knew that list was what he should dwell on about Christina. He said, “The list for her—the positive list—was very long. Guys—don’t run your spouse down, in your mind. . . If you are in Christ, what do you do? Follow Philippians 4:8. Your spouse is a sinner, but they are not your enemy.”

Alex Kendrick’s talk on board the ship, speaking to the 1,000 passengers gathered to hear the word of God taught and the gospel shared in the context of marriage, was so well received that it was shared with the listeners of FamilyLife Today with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine. I took Kendrick’s teaching from the transcript of that March 3, 2014, airing to share with you.

What does this have to do with deployment? Geographic distance and the pressures of war can lead a couple to misunderstandings in communication. Happens all the time. What do you do? Instead of running your spouse down—thinking the worst—make a list. Make a list of what is true about your spouse . . . what is noble . . . what is right . . . what is pure . . . what is lovely . . . what is admirable. Like Alex Kendrick, your list is going to be long because those are the character qualities which attracted you to your husband or wife in the first place.

But sometimes we forget.

And sometimes Satan can cause trouble in a marriage.

Take the advice of the author of The Love Dare . . . and dare to love your spouse the way Christ loves them . . . with grace. And pray that they love you the same way. Think on these things.

Work Cited:

“The One Thing” by Alex Kendrick, aired on FamilyLife Today Radio on March 3, 2014.

Questions to Share:

1. Pick at least one of the eight qualities which the Apostle Paul encourages us to think on—and list ways in which your spouse demonstrates that quality.

2. Pray for each other . . . that you would keep your mind stayed on the strengths of your spouse.

“High Flight” For Parents

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“Don’t you see that children are GOD’s best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?”  —  Psalm 127:3 (The Message)

It was the end of a long day. Finally the kids were in bed. Finally the kitchen was clean. Finally there was some quiet. Finally some time to think about her husband—far away, sitting alert at a Turkish air base because some radicals were holding hostages in Tehran. Finally some time to look around her base quarters in Spain, ponder the events of the day, and feel the loneliness amidst the craziness and exhaustion. She saw a copy of “High Flight”, by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., on the wall—every aviator’s home has it somewhere. And she decided to get out the typewriter, think about her husband flying an F4, and compose a “High Flight” of her own:

High Flight—A New Perspective
by Cindy Chilcott

“Oh! you have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Homebound I’ve stayed, and joined the grumbling sounds
Of worn-out Moms, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — laundered and cooked and longed
For sunlit silence.But hovering there — the children.
I’ve chased them shouting and gone
On countless outings to share.

UP, UP you are amidst the burning blue—
Down here I am re-heating day old stew.
You’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
I’ve played with them their games of hunt and chase.
You’re there where never lark or eagle flew—
I’m blowing up balloons until I’m blue!—
And, while with silent, lifting mind you trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
I tuck them in, and touch the face of God.”

We were all “living it” back then, but my friend Cindy was able to write it down for all of us. Looking back some thirty-plus years later, I can see more clearly that those were really good days. It didn’t always feel good at the time, though.The guys were gone all the time! It didn’t seem like it would ever end.

Sound familiar? This is the important thing to remember—children are a gift from God. They are to be cherished, loved, forgiven, nurtured, protected, disciplined, enjoyed, taught, and listened to. That’s not always easy, especially when you’re the one at home trying to deal with the tantrums, sniffles, selfishness, noise—the list goes on and on.

But here is what God says in His Word: “Don’t you see that children are GOD’s best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy? Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows are the children of a vigorous youth. Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children!” Psalm 127:3-5a (The Message)

And if you are the one deployed, and would give anything to be home with your little ones—don’t forget to encourage your spouse who is the caregiver. Compliment them on how they’re managing with the children; ask how you can help even though far away; ask how you can pray for each other; be on the same team when it comes to who is in charge and who makes the ultimate decisions; continue to communicate with each child individually in a way that makes them feel loved. These are just a few ideas.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above.” (James 1:17a) When we look into the face of our child, we are looking at God’s gift to us. Cindy got it right, all those years ago. And things like that never change. Thank you, Cindy.

Questions to Share:

1. Do you truly appreciate that your spouse and children are a gift from God?

2. How can you express your gratitude for that gift?

Marriage Poem in Paradox

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family

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.” — Matthew 6:33

“The most important one (commandment),” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Mark 12:29, 30

Have you ever known anyone who was asked to write a poem for their son’s wedding? Neither have I. But the great theologian, John Piper, was asked to do just that sixteen years ago. What we have to share today is that poem, entitled “Love Her More and Love Her Less.” It is indeed a “doctrine in a paradox.” I first heard John Piper read this in a recorded speech, and something is lost in giving you the words and not his voice. But there are points he makes which we will suggest in conclusion—which apply to deployment:

“Love Her More and Love Her Less”

By John Piper May 29, 1995

For Karsten Luke Piper
At His Wedding to
Rochelle Ann Orvis
May 29, 1995

The God whom we have loved, and in
Whom we have lived, and who has been
Our Rock these twenty-two good years
With you, now bids us, with sweet tears,
To let you go: “A man shall leave
His father and his mother, cleave
Henceforth unto his wife, and be
One unashaméd flesh and free.”
This is the word of God today,
And we are happy to obey.
For God has given you a bride
Who answers every prayer we’ve cried
For over twenty years, our claim
For you, before we knew her name.

And now you ask that I should write
A poem – a risky thing, in light
Of what you know: that I am more
The preacher than the poet or
The artist. I am honored by
Your bravery, and I comply.
I do not grudge these sweet confines
Of rhyming pairs and metered lines.
They are old friends. They like it when
I bid them help me once again
To gather feelings into form
And keep them durable and warm.

And so we met in recent days,
And made the flood of love and praise
And counsel from a father’s heart
To flow within the banks of art.
Here is a portion of the stream,
My son: a sermon poem. It’s theme:
A double rule of love that shocks;
A doctrine in a paradox:

If you now aim your wife to bless,
Then love her more and love her less.

If in the coming years, by some
Strange providence of God, you come
To have the riches of this age,
And, painless, stride across the stage
Beside your wife, be sure in health
To love her, love her more than wealth.

And if your life is woven in
A hundred friendships, and you spin
A festal fabric out of all
Your sweet affections, great and small,
Be sure, no matter how it rends,
To love her, love her more than friends.

And if there comes a point when you
Are tired, and pity whispers, “Do
Yourself a favor. Come, be free;
Embrace the comforts here with me.”
Know this! Your wife surpasses these:
So love her, love her, more than ease.

And when your marriage bed is pure,
And there is not the slightest lure
Of lust for any but your wife,
And all is ecstasy in life,
A secret all of this protects:
Go love her, love her, more than sex.

And if your taste becomes refined,
And you are moved by what the mind
Of man can make, and dazzled by
His craft, remember that the “why”
Of all this work is in the heart;
So love her, love her more than art.

And if your own should someday be
The craft that critics all agree
Is worthy of a great esteem,
And sales exceed your wildest dream,
Beware the dangers of a name.
And love her, love her more than fame.

And if, to your surprise, not mine,
God calls you by some strange design
To risk your life for some great cause,
Let neither fear nor love give pause,
And when you face the gate of death,
Then love her, love her more than breath.

Yes, love her, love her, more than life;
O, love the woman called your wife.
Go love her as your earthly best.

Beyond this venture not. But, lest
Your love become a fool’s facade,
Be sure to love her less than God.

It is not wise or kind to call
An idol by sweet names, and fall,
As in humility, before
A likeness of your God. Adore
Above your best beloved on earth
The God alone who gives her worth.
And she will know in second place
That your great love is also grace,
And that your high affections now
Are flowing freely from a vow
Beneath these promises, first made
To you by God. Nor will they fade
For being rooted by the stream
Of Heaven’s Joy, which you esteem
And cherish more than breath and life,
That you may give it to your wife.

The greatest gift you give your wife
Is loving God above her life.
And thus I bid you now to bless:
Go love her more by loving less.

Now we conclude in the same way we began—with a question. What does this poem have to do with military deployment? We believe deployment separation forces, in an inconvenient way, the challenges which John Piper poses: to love her more than wealth, more than friends, more than ease, more than sex, more than art, more than fame and more than breath. Sacrificial military service can separate us from all of these “more thans” and we can be left to cherish the one relationship which can endure beyond the challenges of military duty—that of unconditional love between a man and his wife. It then becomes the greater challenge, in that marriage, for a couple to make sure that their relationship is a demonstrated priority in spite of the limitations. Finding ways to show true love for your spouse while separated by wartime duty is the subject of many other books and devotions—and it takes work. But at the end of the deployment, it’s worth it.

But we can’t stop there, because John Piper didn’t stop there. He reminds us, and rightly so, that the true source of joy for which there can be no earthly substitute is to love God—and to love Him more than your spouse. This strange paradox comes alive at this point and is only explained through the supernatural wisdom of our Heavenly Father—that the way to have a growing, vibrant, gracious, joyful and redemptive relationship in marriage is to love God more than anything and anyone. It is only within the divine character of God and possible in the power of the Holy Spirit that this is possible, but at the end of earthly life, it’s worth it.

Prayer: “Heavenly Father, I want to love You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. And with that relationship right, I know I am free to love my spouse in a way that pleases You. But I need help to do that in the middle of this deployment. Please bind our hearts in our marriage commitment together so that oneness is not just a physical relationship but a mental and spiritual one as well. We have so many needs, but they are all met in You. Give us grace for the day and strength for the hour so that when we are reunited after this time apart we can say to each other, ‘I learned to love you more by loving you less than God. It was He who sustained and even grew our love through this time of separation.’ If I must make big steps toward that goal, help me to be courageous. If I must make many small steps, help me to persevere. And when we are tempted to be selfish and think that we are ‘missing out’ help us to both understand that You and You alone are what ultimately matters. I love You, Lord, and together may we love You more. In the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, Amen.”

Work Cited:

“Love Her More and Love Her Less” is found on the Desiring God website.

Questions to Share:

1. Ask yourself, “Do I love God more than anything?”

2. Are there any of the “more thans” which have a hold on your love to the exclusion of your spouse? What steps do you need to take to let go of earthly claims and put God first?

3. For more reading on this topic, go to “That Triangle Thing!

Psalm 91 in Prayer

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

I love the LORD, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live. —  Psalm 116:1,2

Psalm 91 has always been a favorite psalm to study and pray—especially for soldiers and their families who live with the dangers of war. So it is no surprise that routinely our Sunday evening prayer group uses “The Warrior’s Psalm” for our weekly prayer time.

Let me share five prayers written by our prayer team leader based on this powerful Scripture . . . in order to encourage your heart—and your prayer life:

Psalm 91:1,2—“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.”

Gracious and Perfect Father, Thank You, O Lord, our King and our God, for You are holy and we honor You and bless Your holy name. We thank You for Your word, which is better than life, and we are humbled and blessed to come before Your throne of grace to receive grace and mercy. We bring our soldiers to You this evening . . . that they will rest in You. That they will have You as their refuge and strength. Keep them safe, oh Lord, and go before them. Hem them in behind and before, and watch their steps. Help them to honor You as the Most High God and be their fortress. We pray, too, for the families back home—that they will find their joy, peace, and strength in You, O Lord, our King and Savior. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray, Amen.

Psalm 91:3,4—“Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Mighty Father, Gracious King, Thank You, Lord, for Your love is better than life. We praise You, O Lord, our King, and honor You as our mighty God. We come before You this evening and pray for our loved ones once again . . . that they will be safe under Your wings; they will find their refuge in You. Father, we pray for all our military in harm’s way. Be their shield and safety and pursue them with Your love. We thank You, Father, for watching over us—upholding us with Your safety and love. We pray for the commanders and leaders that they will have Your wisdom and rely on You for their understanding in each mission they undertake. We pray tonight, too, for all the soldiers in special operations that Your grace will be sufficient for their needs. Thank You, Lord, that You hear our prayers, and we pray all this in accordance with Your will. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Psalm 91:5-8—“You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near You. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.”

Gracious and Mighty Father, We honor and praise You, O Lord, our King. We thank You for the blessings both spiritual and physical that we enjoy as Your children. We thank You for Your faithfulness and love. You are gracious, compassionate and gentle with us and we are grateful. We lift up our loved ones to You tonight and pray for their continued safety. . . that they will walk in grace, not fear. That Your protection will be evident day and night, and that our soldiers will honor You in speech and action. We thank You, Lord, that You see the evil and thwart it; that You are mightier than any, and nothing happens without Your knowledge. We pray, too, for the families waiting at home, that the time will pass quickly for them, that there will be opportunities for spiritual growth in this time of separation, and that Your love in their lives will shine forth. In the wonderful name, above all names, Jesus, Our Lord and Savior, Amen.

Psalm 91:9-13—”If you make the Most High your dwelling, even the LORD, who is my refuge—then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.”

Gracious Heavenly Father, Thank You once again for Your grace and sovereign hand in the lives of our loved ones. You are our strength, our refuge, our help in times of trouble and we are grateful. We come to you tonight with thankful hearts, praising You as our King and Lord. We pray for . . . that they would continue to look to You; that they will honor You, dear Lord, in all they do, and Your angels will guard them in all their ways. Keep them from harm and as they carry out their missions, that they would be safe on the ground—in helicopters and in their travel. Thank You, Lord, for the chaplains downrange. We ask for special protection over them, continued grace as they minister to their soldiers spiritually and help morale. We pray for the military leadership to have godly wisdom and discernment as they make decisions. We praise You, O Lord, and thank You once again for hearing and answering our prayers. In Jesus’ holy and mighty name we pray, Amen.

Psalm 91:14-16—“’Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him My salvation.’”

Gracious Heavenly Father, Thank You, O Lord, for Your faithfulness, Your love of us, Your compassions that never fail, and how You hear our prayers. We thank You and praise You for our soldiers who have returned safely. We remember all those still deployed and those families whose service members are getting ready to deploy for 4-9 months or longer. We pray for . . . that You, O Lord, will continue to protect them. We pray our loved ones will acknowledge You; that they will pray to You; that You, O Lord, will be with them each moment. If they need “deliverance” from any sin habit, wrong thinking, or they are discouraged—that we ask that You, Father, will come to their aid. Help them fight any temptations they have for bitterness, discouragement, complaining and the like. Thank You, Lord, for protecting them “before and behind”. Be their rear guard and continue to uphold them with Your mighty right hand. We praise You, O Lord and King. In Jesus’ holy and powerful name we pray, Amen.

Questions to Share:

1. Like a “one-a-day vitamin”, choose five days to pray each of these five prayers for deployed service members and their families whom you know.

2. Take each prayer and modify it to pray for you and your spouse. For example, instead of “Keep them safe, oh Lord, and go before them” . . . pray “Keep us safe, oh Lord, and go before us” or “Keep my husband safe, oh Lord, and go before him.”

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” — Jeremiah 32:27

Have you ever wondered. . . .

Where in the world did we get the idea that sin has no consequences?

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” — Galatians 6:7.8

Where in the world did we get the idea that celebrities have all the answers to life?

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.” — 1 Corinthians 3:19

Where in the world did we get the idea that biblical roles of manhood and womanhood are out of date?

“. . . .each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” — Ephesians 5:33

Where in the world did we get the idea that nothing would ever go wrong in life?

Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33

Where in the world did we get the idea that when there is a time of trouble in a marriage that the only answer is divorce?

“Haven’t you read,” He (Jesus) replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” — Matthew 19:4-6

Where in the world did we get the idea that “if I have my health, I have everything?”

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” — 1 Timothy 4:8

Where in the world did we get the idea that “the one who dies with the most toys wins?”

Jesus said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”— Matthew 16:26

Where in the world did we get the idea that there was no hope for PTSD sufferers?

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:. . . .A time to kill and a time to heal . . .” — Ecclesiastes 3:1-3

Where in the world did we get the idea that God is not with us downrange, or at home?

“Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? To be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting!”— Psalm 139:7-10 (The Message)

Where in the world did we get the idea that “fooling around” is okay because “everyone is doin’ it?”

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” — Hebrews 13:4

Where in the world did we get the idea that there is no such thing as absolute truth?

“Jesus answered, ‘. . . . In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’” — John 18:37

Where in the world did we get the idea that nothing good for my family can come out of being separated by deployment?

“. . .but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” — Romans 5:4,5

Where in the world did we get the idea that the Old Testament isn’t relevant?

“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 3:16,17

Where in the world did we get the idea that God cannot heal a broken marriage?

“Jesus looked at them and said, . . . . all things are possible with God.”— Mark 10:27

Where in the world did we get the idea that the purpose of life is to be happy?

“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” — Micah 6:8

Where in the world did we get these ideas? Answer–In the world. . . .

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.”— 1 John 2:15-17

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

So when you are faced with a situation, where do you look for answers?  Be careful not to just rely on your own thoughts and feelings, perhaps influenced by well-meaning friends or relatives whose suggestions might be “worldly.”  “My buddy says I should ________.”  “My sister thinks that I should _______.”

What does God say you should do?  Truth is in His word, the Bible.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” — Proverbs 3:5,6

Questions to Share:

1. What situation are you facing right now for which you need God’s guidance?

2. Pray for God to guide you to trust Him for direction.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” — John 21:21,22

As noble and mature as military couples are, there is a fiery dart which Satan can fire straight from his arsenal into their hearts. It is the dart of discouragement, and I believe it is Satan’s favorite weapon.

Oftentimes discouragement comes from a season of comparison—never a good idea to compare yourself, your marriage, your kids, your career, your possessions, your struggles, your purposes, with others. But we all do it. Sometimes we actually believe, “The grass is greener”—but it isn’t.

Sometimes I hear things like, “Deployment is difficult being at home with four kids to take care of!” followed by, “Just four kids? I have six!” Or “These deployments are killing me. I’ve been gone from the family for six deployments in ten years!” followed by, “Only six deployments? I’ve been coming and going with deployments for years with only a few days home a month!”

And the challenges of deployment are not the only basis for comparison. Pastor Stephen Davey of Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, North Carolina, suggests this common list:

And the list can go on and on. There are thousands of issues that are between the believer and His Lord.

The truth is that comparison is a deadly game. And we see Jesus cutting it short in Peters’ life when Peter asks Jesus to consider his future as compared to John’s. “What about him?” Peter asks of Jesus in regards to John. And Jesus says, “ . . . what is that to you? You must follow me.” Jesus’ challenge to Peter is strong—to keep his focus on the Lord, not on the “other guy”.

Pastor Davey gives five “prescriptions for unhealthy comparison” in his sermon entitled, “Snooping . . . Comparing and Other Natural Diseases.” They are simple and truthful—and worth repeating as a means to encourage all of us. Pastor Davey says, “I want to offer the antidote for these diseases (comparison, meddling, snooping). I want to prescribe the biblical cure. I want to supply the prescription for unhealthy comparison.”

1. “Prescription number one is to recognize that God made you for a unique purpose. In other words, face up to who you are!”

2. “Prescription number two is to remember that God created other people for their unique purpose. In other words, face up to who you are not!”

3. “Prescription number three is to recognize that the object of your human comparison is a human being.”

Pastor Davey continues with this “prescription” by adding, “We mentally build all of these greener pasture myths about someone else’s ability, someone else’s walk with God. We perceive that certainly their lives must be happier, easier, richer, and more bearable. We imagine that their lives must be short of heaven.

No! The truth is, the greener grass on the other side is just as hard to mow!

Paul tells us, in II Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 12, ‘When you compare yourselves among yourselves, you are not wise.’

You are comparing clay pots with clay pots—big deal!”

4. “Prescription number four is to realize that human comparison will always produce spiritual diseases.”

Discouragement, pride, envy, hatred, fruitlessness, defeat—cumulative and compounding symptoms of the disease curse of comparison.

5. Fortunately there is a final antidote. “Prescription number five is to readjust your sights so that they are no longer earthly, but heavenly.

This last prescription points us to the answer found in Hebrews 12:1-3, “ . . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith . . . so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Not looking side-to-side in comparison, but ever forward . . . pushing ahead with resolve and faith, knowing your identity in Christ and knowing His faithfulness.

This reminds me of an Old Testament passage when King Jehoshaphat was faced with an overwhelming enemy force. He prayed, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” (II Chronicles 20:12)

There was victory from God for Judah in that story, just as there is victory for Christians who continue to face each day and each trial with their minds set not on earthly comparisons, which can discourage and defeat, but only on the incomparable heavenly glory of Jesus Christ.

So the next time you are tempted to compare yourself, your life, or your challenges with others’, remember to consider your uniqueness and worth; remember the uniqueness and worth of the other–and their own human frailties; remember the dangers inherent with comparison; and remember to look to Christ alone for perspective and hope.

And instead of giving in to the temptation of “one-ups-manship” in the trials of deployment, ask your friend or acquaintance or even your spouse, “Deployments can be challenging for both of us.  How can we pray for each other during deployment?”

Work Cited:

“Snooping . . . Comparing and Other Natural Diseases” sermon preached by Pastor Stephen Davey on April 30, 1995, at Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, North Carolina.

Questions to Share:

1. The old hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” concludes “Turn your eyes upon Jesus; Look full in His wonderful face; And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.” What people or things have you been focusing on—comparing yourself with—that have caused you to become discouraged?

2. Read Psalm 145. Name five characteristics of God for which you can praise Him. How can thinking about the greatness of God cause you to put life in perspective?

3.  Ask your spouse how you can pray for them this week.

Inspired by the Olympics

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.   1 Corinthians 9:25-27

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. — 1 Timothy 4:8

If you have had the chance to watch any of these 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, you have seen both the “thrill of victory” and the “agony of defeat.”  I can only imagine what the athletes have thought and felt when extremely narrow margins have determined the outcomes of these competitions.

The excitement of watching the performances of the individuals and the teams has included seeing how years of training has paid off in strong finishes or unexpected losses; seeing how normal “obstacles” of age have been overcome by perseverance; seeing how teamwork has been demonstrated; seeing the number of trainers and staff necessary to support the athletes; seeing the families behind the successes of all of these disciplined individuals; and seeing the patriotism that they exhibit as they compete for themselves and their countries.

It’s all been inspirational, and challenges me to put some of this in writing as I ponder what we can observe in the Olympics concerning the past, present, and future.

Inspiration from Past Olympics:  Any Olympic Games bring to my mind the story of Eric Liddell, gold medal winner of the 400m race in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. Perhaps you know his story from the Academy Award winning movie, Chariots of Fire. Liddell was scheduled to run for Great Britain in the 100m race at the Games in Paris, but he refused to run because the race was to be held on Sunday. His devotion to his faith would not allow him to violate his day of worship in that way. His teammate, Harold Abrahams, ran that race on Sunday and Liddell ran, instead, in the 400m race on Thursday—each receiving a gold medal. Eric’s Dad, a missionary in China where Eric was born, told him, “Run in God’s name, and let the world stand back and wonder.”  Eric told his sister Jenny, “I believe that God made me for a purpose—for China. But He also made me fast, and when I run I feel His pleasure. . . .to win is to honor Him.”  After Liddell’s gold medal performance, he returned to China and served as a missionary until his death in 1945 of a brain tumor while in a prison camp during World War II.

Inspiration from the Present Olympics: Perhaps my favorite part of the television coverage of the Olympics are the stories of the athletes. It amazes me to realize how far they have come in their development as athletes, and what obstacles they have overcome in order to compete at this highest level. I also like to learn about what motivates them. . . . and for many of them it is their sustaining Christian faith. The amount of strength and discipline that these athletes exhibit . . . .well, “inspiring” doesn’t even seem to be a big enough word. Check out beyondtheultimate.com for some of these stories of strength and courage—Speed Skater Jilleanne Rookard, Bobsledder Curt Tomasevicz, and Snowboarder Kelly Clark.

Inspiration for the Future:  I will never be an Olympic athlete, but I do want to exhibit the truth in the Bible which uses athletics as a metaphor for life. Two favorite verses are from Philippians and Acts:

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 3:12-15

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” — Acts 24:20

Life is a race—for most of us it is a marathon, not a sprint. There are many challenges. Deployment is one of them. In training I understand that athletes of most sports are told to fix their eyes on the goal and not to look side-to-side or behind. Precious time can be lost in distraction . . . . and it can cause you to lose the race. The same is true of our spiritual life—we are to “fix” our eyes on Christ, the things of His Kingdom, and the prize of eternal life with Him in heaven for those who know and follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4:18)

I particularly like to watch the audience cheer when Olympic athletes successfully finish a race. That is my vision of those who are watching me in the race of life: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  (Hebrews 12:1-3)

When I approach the “finish line” of life, I want to have run in such a way as to “finish strong.”  That can only happen if I am obedient to follow Jesus Christ and allow Him to lead me in this race.

Questions to Share:

1. Which of the Olympic sports is your favorite to watch?  In what ways is training for that sport like training to endure the challenges of life?

2. Do you feel that you have a “cloud of witnesses” who are watching you run your race of life?  Who are they?

3. What is your goal—what would “finishing strong” in deployment look like to you?  What would you consider to be the prize in that accomplishment?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. — 1 Timothy 2:2

Growing up in Minnesota in the 1950s, February always meant two days off from school because of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12th and the celebration of George Washington’s birthday on February 22nd.  But sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s dates shifted—and what I had experienced as two “for-sure” days off became one “iffy” day off on a Monday—to celebrate “Presidents’ Day.”

Back then I guessed that the purpose was to create a three-day weekend, which we enjoy, and to merge two celebrations of presidential birthdays into one grand holiday (especially for retailers to use in marketing). I have only recently found that there is much confusion over the origin of this “federal holiday” and that it is actually more closely linked to Washington’s birthday than Lincoln’s. Just reading about the history of this day left me confused, and our states seem to be equally confused. So whether it is Presidents’ Day, or President’s Day, or Presidents Day . . . . and whether or not schools in your area will be out that day . . . . and whether or not it is a holiday for you . . . . the fact remains that Abraham Lincoln and George Washington were two of our greatest presidents!

Perhaps you like to read biographies as I do. Years ago, when Elisabeth Elliott’s radio program “Gateway to Joy” was still on the air, I remember her encouraging mothers to make sure that their children read biographies of missionaries! Her own study of Amy Carmichael led her to write such a biography, and I have often reflected on her emphasis of this opportunity to draw on lessons learned from the lives of saints. John Piper is another great teacher who challenges us to look into the lives of those in the past and states in his sermon, “Brothers, Read Christian Biography”: “Biographies have served as much as any other human force in my life to overcome the inertia of mediocrity.” (DesiringGod.org)

So, because I enjoy reading biographies, on this Presidents’ Day it should not surprise you that I would want to look a bit at Abraham Lincoln and George Washington—and especially at the role of their marriages in their presidencies. They stand at sharp contrast to one another in terms of the personalities of their wives and the harmony in their households.

Gary Thomas has chosen to write about Lincoln’s marriage in the chapter “Sacred Struggle” from his great book, Sacred Marriage. This should be a hint that domestic tranquility was not the norm in the Lincoln household, for many reasons. But Thomas sees a divine purpose amidst this struggle, and writes, “The connection one can make between Lincoln’s marriage and his mission is not difficult. It is easy to see how a man who might quit on a difficult marriage would not have the character to hold together a crumbling nation. Lincoln was virtually obsessed with saving the Union; what better training ground than the difficult marriage that required such tenacity from him? It’s important to see that not only did Lincoln’s difficult marriage not deter him from achieving greatness, one might argue that it actually helped prepare him for greatness. Lincoln’s character was tested and refined on a daily basis so that when the true test came, he was able to stand strong. Had Lincoln been obsessed with happiness, he wouldn’t have mustered the strength to put up with Mary or to hold the nation together. He sensed a call to destiny, something that would in his mind supersede personal comfort, and his obedience to that destiny made world history.” (Sacred Marriage, p. 136-37).

In contrast, George Washington found in Martha an affable and complementary mate, one in whom he could write on June 23, 1775, “I retain an unalterable affection for you, which neither time or distance can change.” (MountVernon.org) The feeling was mutual, and one of his generals once described Martha as, “a modest and respectable person, who loves her husband madly.” (Battlefields & Blessings, p. 140) Martha burned most of the letters which she and George wrote to each other, so there is little to study about their close relationship. But her willingness to share in the demands of his life both during the Revolutionary War and during the responsibilities of his political office speak to her devotion to her husband, to their marriage, and to the national cause.

So what does any of this have to say to us during deployments? I might be stretching things a bit, but I see two connections that we can make by pausing to look at these presidents and their marriages. One is that some things just don’t change—countries at war call on the best from leaders. Washington and Lincoln gave us their all during pivotal times in our nation’s history. What their marriages allowed them to learn or enjoy was providentially used by God to prepare them for the necessary tasks at hand. If you have visited Washington, D.C. you have seen monuments to these two amazing presidents with their words etched in stone . . . . words which were lived out in the founding and growth of this great nation—not without cost.

But secondly, in terms of practical application, how do you view your present leadership—perhaps in your unit, your post, your squadron, your ship? Do you pray for these leaders—for their marriages? Can you understand that their personal lives will perhaps affect their ability to lead during stressful times in this war? And taking it to a broader perspective, what about the leadership in your church, or in our nation? How can you encourage your pastor or chaplain to keep a good balance between the demands of the church or chapel and the priorities of the home? Reading the challenge given by Paul to young Timothy, we are reminded of the priority of his instruction: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1Timothy 2:2) Notice the link between our prayers for leadership and the effect on our lives. And if you know the context of this writing, you know that Paul wrote during a time of great suffering and persecution.

I have heard it said that it’s very difficult to complain about someone for whom you are praying. Pray for your leaders . . . . whether they be military leaders, corporate leaders, church leaders, or political leaders. They are in authority because God has placed them there. Washington and Lincoln were men of integrity, raised up by God to serve us in our time of need. They were real men, with real lives and real struggles. And so it is today, and so we must pray. Some things just don’t change . . . . and so we must pray.

Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God; he directs it to whatever ends he chooses. — Proverbs 21:1 The Message

Questions to Share:

1. What are two challenges which Washington and Lincoln both faced during their presidencies?

2. How can you pray with your spouse for leaders today?

Work cited:

Cook, Jane Hampton, Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from The Revolutionary War (Chattanooga: Living Ink Books, 2007)

Thomas, Gary, Sacred Marriage (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000).

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” — Matthew 19:4-6

It is not unusual to discover magazines and newspapers with advice for romance and marriage-building in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. Lately I have been pleased to notice how this secular advice has lined up with advice shared in Christian communities. That’s because it works!

I recently read a newspaper article espousing marriage-enriching habits of holding hands, having regular date nights, going to bed at the same time . . . and thought, “That’s exactly what Jim and Barbara would advise!”

Jim and Barbara Grunseth have been teaching and counseling couples for years. Their advice is sound, biblical, and practical. So I decided to get out my dog-eared and well-worn copy of one of their books, Remember the Rowboats: Anchor your Marriage to Christ, and share some of their timeless advice. You won’t find these points in newsstand copy, but you will find them encouraging and helpful—and true:

In this particular book they speak of “Seven Ropes to Tie Two Boats”—as if you and your spouse are two rowboats and you don’t want to drift apart:

“In addition to the essential requirement of the Lord Jesus being the faithful, strong Anchor of your marriage, Barbara and I want to get real practical with you. Couples that come in for biblical counseling have none of the following seven ropes tying their two rowboats together. To keep from drifting, you need the seven ropes that will tie your two rowboats tightly together. Couples with teachable and humble hearts that tie their marriage with these seven ropes do not break up. They have disciplined themselves in obedient surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. They have chosen to hold fast together and let nothing get in between them. Nothing!” (p. 65)

What are these seven ropes? Let me summarize from their writing:

1. “First RopeHold Hands Everywhere”

The Grunseths add: “Some people think this concept is shallow and silly. It does not matter what they think. It works! . . . When you hold hands, you are telling the world: you are in love; God was right in bringing you two together; you are fulfilling God’s plan by filling each other’s gaps (hands clasped together); you need each other’s strengths and weaknesses; you want to honor God by your commitment to each other.” (p. 66)

2. “Second Rope—Same Bed Time”

“Remember if the devil has a middle name it would probably be ‘isolation’. Going to bed together at the same time promotes oneness, togetherness, and marital love.” (p. 67)

But you say—“we’re in the military and experiencing deployment right now . . . so how in the world do we go to bed at the same time????” Of course this is a legitimate question—and getting creative with “staying connected even though worlds apart” is a challenge military couples must face.

One Guardsman currently serving in Afghanistan shared with us that he Skypes with his children before they go to bed—reading from the Bible and praying with them. Then, after they are in bed, he Skypes again with his wife—reading from the Bible and praying with her. This takes intentionality, especially with the time difference. Obviously not all of you can do this—perhaps very few. We understand that. Internet availability, band-width challenges—not to mention mission demands are real. But keeping up some form of communication, if possible, can bring about a spiritual intimacy which can help a couple bridge the distance while apart. Check out other devotions on Excellent or Praiseworthy for ideas.

3. “Third Rope—Cuddle Pray at Bedtime”

The Grunseths are big on this—a couple holding each other and praying together at the end of the day, at bedtime. My husband and I hold each other and pray together in bed first thing in the morning. Some couples do both—morning and night. Some couples kneel in prayer by their bed at night. The key word is together. They write, “In Christian marriage, the most important level of intimacy is your prayer life with God and your mate.” (p. 68)

Again—how do you do this if deployed? I believe the best way is to ask each other, when you can, “How can I pray for you today?” And then do it—yes, pray out loud on the phone, or write out a prayer on email or text. Or pick out a time each day when you have agreed to pray for each other—if possible. And during reintegration this is especially important. A couple reuniting after many months apart needs to connect physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Prayer can bridge a chasm which has been created by this time away from each other. As simple or difficult as these suggestions may sound, God honors and answers prayer.

4. “Fourth Rope—Insist on the Weekly Date”

Time together alone is special time. Dedicating time together in your busy schedule can be difficult, but it may also spare you from becoming so “schedule oriented” or “child-centered” that you neglect each other. Jim and Barbara recommend a weekly date to renew and refresh your relationship. It might just be 15 minutes alone—away from the house, if possible. But together in a special place.

If deployed, this is going to be difficult, but not impossible. Be creative and think of ways you can open a care package “together” by Skype; write each other describing a favorite date; plan dates when you will be back together; spend Facetime together—some couples even watch movies “together”. Something that says to the other, “You’re special. I love you.”

5. “Fifth Rope—Return Blessings”

When conflict arises, and it will, Scripture is very clear that we are to return insults with blessings (I Peter 3:8,9). Easier said than done. Jim and Barbara write, “The worst thing a couple can do is leave conflicts unresolved. Decide right now that no sun will ever set on your unresolved conflicts and anger. . . As soon as God convicts you (gets through your tough hide of pride), do three things: pursue the offended person; admit your failure; request their forgiveness.” (p. 75)

It is very easy for misunderstandings to arise with email, Facebook, texting, and cell phone conversations during deployment. Be careful. Make sure you are clear in your communication and always seek to compliment and encourage each other. Deployment is difficult for both of you!  Make sure you speak kindly towards each other!  And if you need to apologize, do it sooner rather than later.

6. “Sixth Rope—Establish Talk Times”

The Grunseths describe in their book one busy couple with twelve children who demonstrated this discipline very well. They even lit a candle each evening and set it between them to signal to the children that this was special “Mom and Dad” time. “This husband and wife just took turns sharing their High Point and then their Low Point of the day respectively. While the one was sharing, the other just listened and comforted and affirmed. They did not try to fix one another or correct one another. They just loved through quiet, tender listening.” (p. 76)

Can you do this while deployed? When you have the chance to listen to your spouse, just listen. Ask good questions, comfort, affirm.

7. “Seventh Rope—Serve in Church Together”

Here is what the Grunseths suggest: “Remember, if God has you married, then He intends to shine His truth and love to others through the oneness and togetherness of your marriage. Barbara and I encourage you, if possible, to not just go to church together, but also to serve together. We know in some cases this will be difficult but we find it a great way to be together and to be a witness as a team. We recommend you serve God together just like you should take vacations together and sleep in the same bed together. . . We know there are exceptions but we believe you should strive to serve together.” (p. 78) A deployed service member can maintain accountability with his/her church and thus stay “connected” while serving overseas. Also one can pray for the church—and keep in close touch with the congregation’s prayer concerns.

We believe military couples are the most resilient and strongest couples in the world. Your commitment to mission—and to each other—is demonstrated in sacrificial ways each day. The recitation of these “ropes” is meant to encourage you to grow in commitment to your spouse—and to bring glory to God as you live out the Gospel in the context of covenant marriage.

Jim and Barbara close this section in their book with this blessing, “We trust that God will bless you as you implement these ropes into your marriage.” (p. 79)

Work Cited:

Grunseth, Jim and Barbara, Remember the Rowboats: Anchor your Marriage to Christ (Minneapolis: River City Press, Inc., 2008).

Go to MarriageAnchors.com for free book downloads. The Grunseths want to share!

Questions to Share:

1. Do any of these 7 “ropes” surprise you?  Which ones?  Share with your spouse how you can implement one or more even while deployed.

2. Have you known a married couple who has grown in their love and commitment through the years of military service?  If you can, share this devotion with them and ask how they have seen the benefit of any of these “ropes”.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. . . . Love never fails.” — 1 Corinthians 13:7,8

Editor’s Note:  This devotion was originally posted on February 14, 2008.

Because we are approaching Valentine’s Day, which has its challenges and opportunities during deployment, I want to share with you a tender (yet powerful) story of a young Christian couple who kept their marriage strong and vibrant during World War II. Married for two days, they were separated by active duty for three and a half years (he on the front lines in Germany and she serving in the Pacific, in Papua New Guinea). When I met them in 1990, they had been married for almost fifty years. They went on, from that point, to live and love together another 10 years before he passed away. Recently I sat down with Louise, now living with her daughter and son-in-law, and recorded her story.

Louise and Eugene met while attending classes at Gardner-Webb College in North Carolina in 1940. . . . and Louise is quick to say that what attracted her to Eugene was that he was a good Christian and he always treated her like a lady.

But after two years of dating he was drafted, and it wasn’t long before he found out that he was going to be assigned overseas. Unbeknownst to Eugene, Louise had also decided to join the Army through the prompting of her brother. When Eugene found out that Louise had enlisted, he said that he thought it was a good idea. “I’ll know where you are and you’ll know where I am,” he said. Then over the phone from Delaware he asked if he could come down to where she was training at Ft. Stewart and “get married before I leave.” She said yes, as did her father and her commanding officer. They were married, both in uniform, in Savannah, Georgia, in January of 1942. Two days later he left for training to prepare for Germany. They did not see one another until the war ended in 1945.

Intrigued by her courageous story, I had to ask several key questions that evening:

Knowing that your husband was in combat every day, how would you pray for him?
Louise answered, “I would just turn him over to the Lord. I told Him that I couldn’t do anything but He could do it all.”

She added a story of witnessing to her bunk-mate, “Well, I had my Bible with me, and my bunk-mate from New York. . . she asked me one night ‘Louise, what are you reading?’ And I said, ‘My Bible.’ Then she said, ‘Why are you reading?’ And I said, ‘Because I like to and I get my strength from the Lord’. . . . . . . .I had to explain everything from beginning to end how I became a Christian. She said, ‘Louise can I see your Bible? I want to read it.’” Louise told her that the next time they would go to the PX she would see if they had a small pocket Bible. “So I bought her one. And when I would read, she would read.”

How would you and Eugene communicate with each other?
“He would write when he could, and I would write every night.” Louise told me that during one spell, she didn’t hear from Eugene for two months — and she had to go to her commanding officer to begin an investigation to try and find out what had happened. Turns out he, and others, were being hidden by a Belgium family after they were separated from their unit during the fighting in Bastogne. Louise heard from him again when he returned to his unit. Eugene and she stayed in touch with that brave family even after the war.

Did he ever talk about the war after he got home?
“A little bit, but not too much. He wouldn’t. . . He was mum on a lot of stuff. Whether he wanted to forget. . . .I don’t know. . . .So I just let him talk when he wanted to. . . . In the summer time, if it came a thunder cloud, I would have to put him in a car and go to ride. He thought it was guns shooting. It took him a good while to get over that, but he did.”

When you would write a letter to him in Germany, when would he get it?
“Sometimes it would be a couple of months. . .sometimes the mail would be slow because it would go over on a ship.”

Did you ever get lonely?
“Oh, more times than I had fingers and toes.”

How did you get through that?
“Prayer. Reading the Bible. I’d pray and I’d read, and I’d pray and I’d read. I’d get through. And he had his Bible. . . . .he would write about how he would ask the Lord to guide him. One time he asked me where I was reading in the Bible and when I answered him I told him. And he wrote back that he was reading up with me.”

So you kinda’ read through the Bible together?
“Yes. He read mostly in the New Testament and he would tell me where he was reading and that way we could keep up with each other.”

Did you ever think, “This is too hard. I don’t know if I can make it?”
“No. I was totally committed. . . .to my job, to my commanding officer, and to my husband. And I knew he was like me. I never doubted him.”

What would you have to say to these service members and their spouses today?
“If they’ll trust in the Lord. . . .if they’ll put Him first. . . they’ve got to put Him first before themselves and trust Him and He will take care of them. But they’ve got to believe. Commitment is the main thing. Be committed to your husbands. . . and husbands, be committed to your wives. It’s a two-way street.”

Louise was not in New Guinea during that entire time of their wartime separation, as she was called home in 1944 because her father was dying. The Red Cross helped get her back home to be with him before he died. Arriving back in the States, she was discharged at Ft. Bragg. She hurried home to her father’s bedside. At that point, however, he was in a coma—and she is not sure if he ever knew she was there. After that she stayed with her mother and alternated with visits to her in-laws until Eugene came home a year and a half later. She describes his homecoming, “My mother-in-law was sweeping the back porch. And we heard an awful commotion with her hollering (we thought she had fallen), so we ran out to see what was wrong. . . . .and there stood my husband!”

Married two days, and separated by war for three and a half years with letters as their only means of communication. Perhaps you know a couple like this. Perhaps your grand-parents lived this. Perhaps you have a similar story, as the cycle of deployments has become so stressful throughout the years.

Where do you turn?  Try turning, like Louise, to prayer and your Bible.
“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” — 2 Thessalonians 3:5

Questions to share:

1. Do stories like this give you greater confidence in your marriage? How?

2. Can you use your circumstances to witness to someone close by — like Louise did with her bunk-mate?

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