When holidays roll around that celebrate our freedom and those who fought for it, I can’t help but be reminded of my uncles. All four served our country in the military during times of war. But their memories and viewpoints were quite different, especially for the two that saw the most combat. One uncle rarely talked about his experience. He won the Silver Star and a Purple Heart, but the nightmares haunted him for the rest of his life. He stormed the beach during WWII, watching as the enemy mowed down his entire unit…all but him. Bullets were flying, blood was flowing, and the beach was littered with dying men. His main thought was, “There is no way we can win!”
Another uncle was a paratrooper. As they flew over the battle site, he too saw the bullets
flying, the viciousness of the enemy, and the intense bravery of the Allied soldiers as they battled on the ground. But he also had the viewpoint from above that showed the thousands of troops coming in from the sea as well as dropping in from behind enemy lines. His thought was, “There is no way we can lose!”
Perspective makes a compelling difference when fighting a battle. And we all face battles in this life. In no way am I seeking to minimize or compare the battles we face in life with the sacrifices that many have made in service to our country to protect a freedom that in no way is free. I celebrate them, and I look for ways to learn from them as I fight the battles in my own life.
Sometimes we get the opportunity to choose our battles. (This is called wisdom.) But other battles come regardless, and the resulting combat can maim, scar, and exhaust us. When you watch a loved one die, a spouse leave, a parent slowly lose cognitive function, a disease that eats away at life, a lost career, addiction, doubt, betrayal, loneliness, depression, or sometimes just a body that doesn’t function as well as it used to, our efforts can often seem paltry as we face a “bloody” view of the situation. There are days when we certainly feel we cannot possibly win.
Yet, we fight on. As I face the battles of my life, each day I find myself seeking to gain a new perspective from faith, plodding through the valleys of life with the certainty that God is in control, no matter how out of control the situation may seem. The soldier who fights for his country is not expected to provide his own equipment and supplies. His country furnishes what he needs. In life’s battles, God wants to be our provider. He is more than capable. And he cares so deeply for us, ready to assist when we are in the trenches of conflict. From his perspective, he sees the whole battlefield…the whole picture. He sees the provisions for reinforcements even when we can’t, knowing exactly what we need.
This world is an imperfect place, and there will always be battles. The first step is to figure out who or what you are fighting, who or what is the real enemy. When the Panama Canal was built, it was heralded as one of the largest human achievements of all time. It saved ships 8000 miles a journey. But it was a costly achievement. More than 25,000 lives were lost during the project that began in the 1880’s. Malaria and yellow fever were the primary causes of death, but medical knowledge of these diseases was limited at the time. Originally, ants were thought to be the cause of the infections. And since ants can’t swim, workers placed their bed posts in pans of water, creating a liquid barrier to keep the ants away while sleeping. Moats were dug around their working quarters. But people kept dying. After 20 years, scientists discovered that mosquitos were the culprits, not ants. And what do mosquitos love? Standing water! The moats, swamps and pans were drained. Screens were installed in living quarters. Mosquitos were killed and that battle was won.
When the enemy is identified we can gain a better perspective on how to fight and how to extricate ourselves from the stress of it. Sometimes in our despair, our loneliness, our bitterness or lack of faith, we apply “ant solutions” because we have no idea how to attack the situation. Perhaps there is a reason we feel as though we are failing and living in exhaustion of fighting the war. As much as we don’t want to hear it, it’s always good to come to the point of realizing, “I cannot do this alone.” Rarely are battles fought alone. Just like the soldier who fights for his country, it’s critical to depend on the wisdom of the commander and remain obedient to our training. In our battles, maybe it’s time to let God be God and trust in his wisdom. He knows exactly how to swat the “mosquitos.”
Rather than constantly asking why we have to go through a situation, we can ask, “What can I learn from this?” When surveyed, the American public overwhelmingly agreed they learn and grow more through times of suffering. There can certainly be a time for tears, for grief, for frustration, and maybe even anger. But there is power and peace to be found in knowing that these battles build our perseverance. And perseverance builds character which leads to an incredible, sustainable hope.
I find great comfort in knowing that my world is not really out of control. I may not have all the answers. But I know the one who does, and he is trustworthy!
A heartfelt thanks to all those who risk their lives for our freedom…to those who teach us so much about bravery, sacrifice, and submission to authority.
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Anne Hope is the award winning author of Bent Pages...a sharp, funny, and deeply inspirational narrative. Kindle version of the award winning, "Bent Pages" is now on sale at Amazon! Click on the link below to take you there.