Steve first went downrange in March of 2005. That’s plain speak for going to Iraq or Afghanistan to serve in the wars the United States was waging at the time. We had just moved to Germany and had a 6-month-old daughter. Shortly after arriving in country, Steve was told he needed to head to Afghanistan to join his unit, which already had been in theater for a few weeks. We were thankful for the time the Army allowed us to find a home and get unpacked before having to say goodbye for the good part of a year.
That’s a lot of weight to be carrying around, a lot of “what-if” scenarios to have buzzing around in your head.
That first deployment was tough for many reasons. First, we had just moved to a foreign country where everything was new and different, and I hadn’t yet met any friends. Secondly, our housing situation was subpar as there just weren’t any available housing units left. We ended up staying in an old, fixed-up duplex that oddly, had the neighborhood cigarette machine in the front yard but no internet capabilities. (Email was the easiest form of communication with deployed soldiers at that time.) And lastly, I was a first-time mom with a little baby to take care of– and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Of course, this was all in addition to my husband being a rookie pilot in a war zone where he faced life and death situations daily.
That’s a lot of weight to be carrying around, a lot of “what-if” scenarios to have buzzing around in your head. What if I get sick, who will take care of my child? What if someone breaks into the house? What if I must take my child to the hospital in this foreign country? What if my car breaks down on the Autobahn? What if I die in my sleep, how long will it take for anyone to know? What if Steve’s helicopter is shot down? What if…? What if…? What if…? Some of these may seem silly, but at the time, they were very real worries that I had. It’s very easy to go down the dark rabbit hole of “what ifs” and dwell on how hard life is now.
I remember a time venting over the phone to a good friend back in the United States. “You don’t understand what it’s like!” I complained, “My husband is gone for months on end, and I have no idea if he will come home wearing boots or a flag- draped coffin.”
“You’re right,” she answered, “I don’t know what it’s like, but I do know that if the worst happens, Steve will be in heaven, and that’s not a bad thing.”
I did not appreciate her answer at the time – I wanted someone to jump in and add to my pity party, but it was an answer I needed to hear. The reminder that regardless of what happens here on earth, the Christian always has that assurance of our heavenly home. The troubles of the world are temporary but our life in heaven is eternal.
Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you don’t struggle with hardship, it doesn’t mean that you don’t get scared or discouraged, frustrated, or hurt. It doesn’t mean that sometimes life hits you so hard you struggle to get up. But being a Christian does mean you have a different perspective on life’s trials. The Christian knows there is a big picture.
God sent his son, Jesus, to live perfectly and die in our place. Through this we have salvation in Christ, a place with Him in heaven, and nothing can take that away. Not sickness, not deployments, not helicopter crashes, not death. We can have confidence to face uncertainty – to face the “what ifs” – because of the certainty of what Jesus has done for us. There is where we find peace.
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