'Black Hawk' Hero Confronts Fear With Faith in Sovereign God
- Tuesday, January 02, 2007
COLUMBUS, Ga. — After facing death on several foreign battlefields, Jeff Struecker has overcome the fear of his own demise, not to mention less pressing concerns like financial difficulties or the childhood nightmares that followed his parents’ divorce.
Still, he battles uncertainties, and at the top of the list is the possibility of a seventh trip to the war-torn Middle East. Struecker dreads the possibility that his wife, Dawn, could be left alone to raise their five children, ages 4 to 12.
The former Army Ranger and central figure in the hit book and movie “Black Hawk Down” is OK with admitting that fear.
“This is sad if you think about it, but there’s an overwhelming philosophy in [U.S.] culture that you just don’t show fear,” said Struecker, author a new book called “The Road to Unafraid.”
“I think that’s a mistake. People in other cultures readily display their fears, but they go on with life anyway,” he said. “In our culture we tend to repress the fact that we are afraid.”
Now a chaplain at Fort Benning, Ga., Struecker hopes his book will help readers – especially Christians – learn how to overcome the fears that he says are a part of everyone’s life.
Whether in military or civilian life, Struecker, a member of Fairview Baptist Church in Columbus, Ga., said people are generally afraid of the unknown. Ultimately, that revolves around fear of what might happen in the future, whether with personal relationships, career decisions or finances, he said. Such trepidations, and the unwillingness to admit their existence, propelled the writing of "The Road to Unafraid."
Although he and his wife started writing it prior to his 1998 enrollment at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., after 100 pages it sat on the shelf for more than eight years.
But when a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers approached him about writing a book that would use his experiences to help people overcome fear, he felt inspired to resume.
“[Co-author Dean Merrill] and I felt like the whole book was earning the right to say what we said in the last chapter,” said Struecker, who culminates his tales of life-threatening combat experiences with an in-depth look at the topic of fear.
“The last chapter takes a very different tone and in some cases takes a hard right turn. It went through many different edits before it was approved,” he said. “We smashed through the rest of the book but we both firmly believed we wanted the last chapter to be very pastoral.”
Men are the worst when it comes to admitting fear, Struecker said, and that may stem from their upbringing and the cultural messages that showing fear equals weakness.
He argues it is the opposite, pointing to Paul’s request that God remove his thorn in the flesh. When the Lord refused, He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness,” (2 Corinthians 12), Struecker noted.
“Fear is healthy for us, just like pain is healthy,” Struecker said. “Pain tells you, ‘This is not a good situation.’ Fear also tells us, ‘This is not a good situation’ and to repress it is unhealthy.”
Struecker accepted Christ at age 13, and it was a decision that helped end his youthful nightmares. His faith was the first step to overcoming fear. Another step was confessing it to a chaplain during a 1993 deployment to Somalia, when Struecker thought he would die.
In a scene from chapter 1 of his book, when a soldier tells him he doesn’t want to return to a dangerous area to rescue stranded soldiers, Struecker replies, “The difference between being a coward and a hero is not whether you’re scared or not. It’s what you do while you’re scared.”
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