BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE

Our son-in-law David received word this week that he will be going to Iraq in April. He has been in the Air Force for over fifteen years and is a major – soon to be a lt. colonel when he pins on in a few months. He has never been deployed overseas before. That might seem unusual for a career officer, but considering the field he is in – space and missiles – perhaps it is not so unusual, after all. He is more a “rocket scientist” than a soldier and even now is working in a sort of think tank, doing research.

Julie and David have known all along that when you are in the military, being deployed comes with the territory and that it could actually happen someday. You have to be prepared and willing to go wherever they want to send you. After all these years, though, and doing the kind of work he does, it seemed unlikely, perhaps, that it ever would happen. It came as a shock when out of the blue the other day he got his orders.

Their initial reaction was just that – shock. Julie cried. David was dismayed. He was about to start colonel school. And the worst was that they are so close as a couple, and their family is so very close as well, that the thought of being separated was awful. When Julie told the children, they cried and cried and cried. They didn’t know much about Iraq since their parents never have the news on in front of them, but they had heard other people ask for prayer for so-and-so who was going to Iraq, or talk about someone who had been killed in Iraq. Their worst fear was that Daddy might have to go to Iraq, and now it was happening.

Joshua, who is nine, was mad – mad at the military. “Why can’t he just tell them no?” he asked, sobbing.

“He has to go, Joshua,” Julie tried to explain to him. “If he tells them no, they would put him in prison – military prison.”

Joshua continued to cry, but slowly stopped. Julie could see the wheels turning in his head. “How long would he have to stay in prison?” he asked hopefully.

Julie couldn’t help it. She burst out laughing. “Joshua, your daddy is not going to prison! He’s going to go do his duty and we will all get through it just fine!” Joshua had the grace to look a little sheepish, and after that the worst seemed to be over.

They went to meet David for lunch, and when she told him what Joshua had said, he, too, laughed. “Hmm,” he said, “let me see – six months in Iraq – or 50 years of hard time in prison, a dishonorable discharge and losing my retirement? I think I’ll go to Iraq!”

Within a few hours the whole family was doing just fine. They spent time together reading some of the promises of God and praying. They counted their blessings and thanked God for the good they could see in the situation – David would be gone only six months instead of a year; he was going to Iraq instead of Afghanistan; they were settled in their new house and would be fine here at home; maybe the Lord had a special mission for David to accomplish, some life to touch while he was gone. In the meantime, they would simply trust God to take care of them all and bring them back together soon.

There are times when we are between a rock and a hard place and there is absolutely nothing we can do to help ourselves. We feel helpless to control the situation. How we handle those times makes all the difference in the amount of pain or suffering we will experience. If we are bitter or fearful or angry, we make it so much harder for ourselves. There is a lack of trust on our part in believing that God always works in our lives for our best. That lack of trust robs us of the strength, peace and comfort that the Lord is so ready to give us in those troubled times.

An attitude of gratitude, on the other hand, helps us to see the bigger picture as we count the blessings of God in our lives. Taking the focus off the problem and putting it on our Problem-Solver who tells us to cast all our cares upon Him for He cares for us strengthens our faith. (I Peter 5:7) As we remember the great things He has done in the past and thank and praise Him for those things, we can trust that He will uphold, provide and protect in the future, as well. “The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.” (Psalm 126:3)

I know Julie’s family will come through this time of testing just fine. They live by faith, and have taught their children well to do the same. They thank Him in the good times, and they thank Him in the bad times, as well. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)

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