As I answered the phone I could hear the desperation in her voice. The cracking of the broken words as she shared the dark place her nineteen-year-old grandson was living in. Eight and a half years earlier his father was killed in Iraq. He was my friend’s only son. Now his son was struggling with the after-effects of losing his “war hero” father who suddenly vanquished out of his young life. Gary was a Sergeant in the National Guard. He volunteered to go to Iraq. It was his first and only deployment. Tragically he returned to his family in a flag-draped casket.
This war hero’s young son was struggling for years with the why questions. Why did his father choose to serve his country? Why didn’t he love him enough to stay home and be his father? Why did his father have to die?
We never know how far-reaching our loss can take us. The struggles that those left behind must deal with. There are so many organizations and programs for our veterans but what about the others who have lost, the wives, the children, the parents. They also carry the burdens of war for the rest of their lives. The aftermath of the devastation touches all those we interact with. Siblings, grandchildren, and even friends. Where does it all end? How do we make sense of it in a world that easily forgets?
This same world appears to have forgotten a savior that took the long journey to the cross over two thousand years ago. “He himself took our infirmities and bore our sickness” Matthew 8:17 NKJV. We are on the precipice of a window of mercy. There are days I grow weary of fighting the battle, the pain, and struggles within myself and my own family. But then that call comes in and when I hear the hurting, weeping voice on the other end of the phone, once again I am reminded of why I do what I do. It is called Discipleship. God calls us to bear one another’s burdens and to comfort others as we were once comforted.
In Matthew 8:10-12 we read about the Centurion who had such faith that Jesus would heal his servant. His servant was lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented. I know the bible says he was paralyzed but it hit me that not only was he physically wounded he may also have been suffering from what we call PTSD today. I remember being so tormented I too was paralyzed in fear, anxiety, anger, and bitterness. I couldn’t leave my home, yet I struggled to be there all alone. The centurion said to Jesus “I am not worthy that you should come under my roof but only speak a word and my servant will be healed” Matthew 8:8 NKJV. Later, Jesus said to the Centurion “Go your way, and as you have believed, so let it be done for you. His servant was healed that very hour” Matthew 8:13 NKJV. Can you believe that? He just spoke a word and his servant was healed immediately.
How much do we as Christians limit God to working only in specific ways due to our lack of faith? The Church today isn’t much better off than the religious Jews in those days. We have become much more about our religious habits than how God can truly work in our lives. We hear so much about “our faith.” Do we really understand what that means and how much God wants from us? He demands complete loyalty no matter what the cost. Loyalty over family, friends, finances, possessions. He wants complete obedience! In obedience, the cost of following Christ is high, but the investment lasts eternally with incredible rewards. I am reminded of Joan of Arc whose last words while being burned at the stake were, “hold the cross higher so I can see it through the flames.” That my friend is faith! When we are in our fires we need to have such complete trust (faith) in God no matter the outcome we can cry these words, “Hold the cross higher!” I believe God was right there with her in that fire.
The farther I walk in my “grief” journey I realize how great my God is. How much he loves me. The cost has been high, being a disciple even higher. In knowing his mighty power, I wouldn’t change my walk. I find myself yearning to do more, touch more, share the loving grace and mercy of Jesus with the hurting and the lost. I have found there is no greater relationship to satisfy my hunger. I am a broken pot and imperfect. I also am the daughter of a King adopted into the royal family! A servant who is no longer paralyzed and dreadfully tormented. Like Joan of Arc, God has always been right there with me in my fire.
©Copyright Beverly Shoemaker 2017