Loss seems to be ever present. Loss of time, loss of relationships, loss of innocence, loss of compassion, loss of mercy, loss of love, loss of empathy, loss of a mission, loss of your mind, loss of a limb, loss of a buddy. You feel loss even when you turn on the News and see the loss of ground to an enemy, ground that you or your buddy sweated on, cried on, killed on, bled on… and died on. All of these losses are real and personal. They hurt.
Your feelings of shame and/or guilt are real and you might have trouble coping with them on patriotic holidays. And then there’s the humbling, embarrassing, or even shameful feeling that you get when you hear someone say, “Thank you for your service.” You might even be thinking, “I don’t deserve this gratitude that so many before me really deserve.”
We pack these things away and throw them into the harbor of emotions we are not supposed to have. We were taught that emotions are for the weak. Yet they are the constant thorn in the heart of our mind that haunts us daily, telling us that we are not living up to the expectations or platitudes that everyone else showers over us. It is exhausting. It is an unbearable load.
“Rest” seems like nothing more than a drill command.
But there is good news for the exhausted Veteran. You are a perfectly primed candidate for inexhaustible grace: God’s undeserved, unearned, unmerited favor, and blessing.
For the Veteran who is lonely, loneliness can saturate your feelings in a world where you are no longer around military personnel, and it can be suffocating. In a world full of people, you have never felt so alone. Be doubly encouraged by these eight simple words from Jesus.
“I am with you always, to the end…” (Matthew 28:20)
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
For the Veteran who feels helpless, cry out to the Lord, He will hear you. All your expectations of “living right” have been accomplished in who Jesus is and what He has done for you. Because Christ is righteous, those who are in Him are counted as righteous.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:17-19)
For the Veteran who suffers mentally, the weight your mind carries, the burden your thoughts bear, the nightmares that haunt you, the images that exhaust your heart, the never ending search for peace in your thoughts—find rest and peace in these words of Jesus.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
For the Veteran who hates, all of the wrathful feelings, thoughts, emotions you have were consumed by Christ on the cross, as He drank down God’s wrath
for you. When hate consumes you, confess your hatred to God, and rest in knowing Jesus nailed all your hate to the cross.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses… God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)
For the Veteran who has lost confidence, comparing your old pictures in full battle rattle with the man in the mirror causes mental and emotional struggle that makes you feel weak and unworthy of your uniform. But weak is strong—embracing your weakness is where you will find Christ embracing you. When you are weak to hold fast to Christ, Christ will hold fast to you.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
For the Veteran who is physically broken, for those in Christ, a day will come when there will be no aches, no pain, no missing parts, and no brokenness. A body made brand new. Find your completeness in Christ because He completes you—a sure promise from our Father in heaven.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:4-5)
For the Veteran who has guilt, do you feel guilty? Have you blown it big time? Does your failure burden your conscience? Do you think your epic mistakes effectively render you a condemned sinner who Jesus does not want? Let me introduce you to some good news.
And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:16-17)
For the Veteran who feels unworthy of God’s love, the thought of anyone loving you seems far off. You believe you don’t deserve love. And this is the good news: God’s love is only given to the undeserving. God loves unworthy people because unworthy people are all that there are.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
For the Veteran who has no friends, whatever load you are carrying, whatever burden you are bearing, hear the call of Jesus. Look to him, hope in him, and receive His inexhaustible grace. He loves you, He lived for you, He died for you, He rose from the dead for you—and He chose you to be His friend. You have heard “John 15:13” quoted in the Memorial Service of a fallen friend. But now read that verse along with the verses that follow it—and know they are for you.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
“…But I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you…” (John 15:15-16)
Special thanks to Sgt. Adam Tuner, U.S. Army, Combat Veteran, Atlanta, Georgia, for his assistance with this article. I would also like to thank my fellow Warriors, past and present—even if you have already heard it today and don’t feel worthy of another person giving their thanks for your service, you have mine—it is yours and nothing can take it from you.
God speed and Semper Fi,
Sgt. Zack James Cole USMC, 2004-2009
All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission.