Dead sunflowers in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Endure suffering like a soldier

I come from a family with a proud military background. No one in my immediate family is in the military now, but many relatives have served this country as soldiers, dating back to the Civil War. Some marched or drove tanks in World War II. Some fought in Korea. And I’m proud of that, and I’m proud to have many friends who are in every branch of the service, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines. Being a soldier is no small thing. It’s a huge sacrifice, not only for the person who chooses it but for his (or her) family as well.

So when the Bible tells us that those who believe in Jesus are soldiers for Christ, what does that mean? How should that affect the way we live? How should that change the way we make decisions? How should that prepare us for the difficult times that are coming?

Dead sunflowers in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Dead sunflowers in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 2 Timothy 2:3.

Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

How does a soldier endure suffering? I’ve never been a soldier in a military sense, so I don’t know. But I have been around many people who have had to stay behind while their loves ones leave the safety of home and travel to distant places in order to protect our country. And I can imagine that probably produces some suffering on both sides, the soldier who leaves and the family who stays. But what I have observed (at least from the family who stays) is something that challenges me in the way I follow Christ. And if I’m wrong, you military folks, please feel free to correct me. But this is what I have observed.

The ones who stay and the ones who go both have difficulties and hardships they have to endure. They’re expecting them, and they are prepared for them. And while they don’t rejoice to be separated or to have to go through those difficult things, they understand it’s for a greater purpose. So even though they’re lonely, even though sometimes they’re scared, even though sometimes they just wish it was all over, if you ask them, they will tell you it’s necessary and they understand.

And that makes me step back and reassess the way I deal with difficult things in my own life. Because if we’re supposed to endure difficult things like good soldiers (the Amplified Version says first-class soldiers), I need to take a lesson from some soldiers. When trouble comes my way, I shouldn’t hide from it, and it shouldn’t catch me off guard. I need to be ready for it. I need to be expecting it. And just because things get rough, that doesn’t give me the excuse to complain. This is war, after all. War isn’t fun.

What I love about this scripture is that it doesn’t say we’re supposed to endure suffering like a good general or a good admiral or a good commander in chief. It says we should endure like soldiers. Soldiers aren’t really in command. They aren’t in charge. There is someone above them making the decisions, calling the plays, issuing orders. Soldiers are supposed to obey–immediately, enthusiastically, whole-heartedly.

That’s where I get caught. Because when God tells me to do something I’ll do it, but it’s usually not immediately. And most of the time it’s not enthusiastically. And it’s rarely with my whole heart. I want to know why. I want to know what’s going to happen. I want to know the next step before I take the first step. But a soldier who constantly questions the orders he’s given isn’t good for much.

So are you going through some difficult things today? Are you facing hardships and troubles? Everyone does. If you aren’t today, you will tomorrow; and if you’ve never experienced trouble, you’re not paying attention.  Don’t be surprised when tough things come your way, and make the conscious choice to handle it the way the Message lays it out:

When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did.

It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to be lonely. It’s okay to feel all those things, but you have to place more value on choosing to overcome those feelings than choosing to wallow in them. That’s the difference between a citizen and a soldier. A soldier looks past the emotion and does what is necessary. And they have understand that they don’t always need to understand, especially when they have a commander they can trust.

So face the trouble in your life today like a soldier. Endure it for a higher purpose. Endure it with the understanding that the war won’t last forever and we’ll eventually get to go home for the biggest reunion in the history of time. It will change your perspective on a lot of things.