Military Spouses: Find Hope on the Home Front
- 2007 8 Mar
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Marshele Carter Waddell's new book, Hope for the Home Front: Winning the Emotional and Spiritual Battles of a Military Wife, (New Hope Publishers, 2007).As your spouse serves our country in the military, you serve as well, providing support on the home front and making many sacrifices to do so. The burdens you must deal with – such as loneliness, fear, temptation, frequent moves, and single parenting during deployments – can easily become overwhelming.
But with God’s help, you can find the hope you need to overcome any challenge on the home front. Here’s how:
Fight fear with faith. Know that, despite how dangerous your spouse’s missions may be, God is in control of what happens. Choose to trust in God’s great wisdom and love for both you and your spouse. Rather than wasting time and energy fearing certain circumstances, decide to fear God alone, by respecting His sovereignty. Whenever you encounter a crisis, see it as an opportunity to learn to trust God more. Remember God’s promise to always be with you, and His assurance that you don’t need to be anxious about anything. Whenever you catch yourself starting to worry, pray about the matter instead. Every day, release your spouse to God’s protection and trust Him to do what’s best in your spouse’s life. Pray for God to give you the peace you need.
Recognize the power of words. Understand that words have tremendous power to either bless or harm other people. Bless your spouse with encouraging words often. When talking with your spouse about your frustrations, choose your words carefully so you don’t cause harm to your marriage. Realize that, just like military jargon, your spouse’s thoughts and feelings often require patience to come to understand. Make time to genuinely listen to your spouse before you reply to what he or she says. When comforting a friend who is also married to a spouse in the military, make time to listen to your friend’s heart instead of just jumping in with pat answers.
View interruptions and inconveniences as opportunities. Whenever you face interruptions and inconveniences (such as unexpected deployments, rescheduled duty, extended work hours, cancelled liberty, or poorly timed telephone calls), don’t let disappointment, hurt, or resentment get the best of you. Instead, pray for God to help you be flexible and gracious about accepting them. Don’t react right away; let time and space act as cushions between your thoughts and words, helping you to calm down before responding. Remember that each interruption and interpretation is an opportunity for you to grow in your faith by deciding to trust God more. Recall the many ways God has proven Himself faithful in your life in the past, and look forward to how He’ll help you get through your current and future challenges. Understand that God has your family’s best interests in mind, and rely on Him for strength as you change your plans in response to unexpected circumstances. Recognize that what at first seems like a burden can be a blessing in disguise, such as when it leads you to develop new skills and embrace fresh confidence.
Remember that God is on your team when your spouse is away. During times when you’re left solo to bear burdens designed for a duet, rely on God’s help to get you through. Realize that He will provide all you need to deal with any challenge that comes your way while your spouse is gone – from termite infestations, plumbing problems, and car breakdowns, to viruses, hurricanes, and snowstorms. Remember that you can count on God’s grace to be there when you need it. Pray about each challenge specifically, and make time to listen carefully to the Holy Spirit’s reply, giving you the wisdom to know how to respond.
Rely on God’s strength for temporary single parenting. When your spouse is not present to be an active parent, bring all your needs to God in prayer and draw upon the strength He’ll give you. Accept help from friends and family members who care about you and your children. Be careful not to rely on your children for counsel or comfort like you would another adult; don’t share too many concerns with them, so you don’t burden them with unnecessary stress while their other parent is away. Make time regularly to listen to your children’s concerns, though, and know that God will use everything – in your spouse’s absences – to accomplish good purposes in your children’s lives.
Overcome temptation. Acknowledge the reality of temptation that confronts you while your spouse is away for an extended time, such as in training or on a deployment. Pray specifically about each situation you encounter – fatigue, loneliness, boredom, an unmet sexual drive – so you don’t fall victim to temptations like idleness, adultery, unproductive busyness, or alcohol binges. Claim God’s promises from Scripture to fight temptations when they taunt you. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you resist evil. Choose to trust God to meet your needs, instead of trying to meet them yourself in your own way. Don’t neglect your basic needs for a healthy diet, exercise, and enough sleep, because doing so will make you more vulnerable to temptation. Besides spending time in prayer and Bible reading regularly, get together with some other believers who can support and encourage you while your spouse is away.
Approach rank with the right perspective. Realize that, although people’s military ranks determine where they stand in the structure of the armed forces, everyone is equal before God. Acknowledge that no title or uniform can increase the value of a human soul. Remember that each person you meet deserves your respect because each is one of God’s beloved children, made in His image. Treat everyone equally well, showing no partiality between private and general. Understand that God isn’t impressed by someone’s rank, but He is impressed by someone’s character. Focus on what God values, humbly living out your faith by loving and serving Him and other people.
Expect God to meet you at your new homes. As you go through the frequent moves that are common in military life, know that God will always go ahead of you to prepare you for what lies ahead. Pray for peace while you make the necessary transitions. Understand that while your addresses here on Earth are temporary, you have a permanent residence waiting for you in heaven. Remember that, while many parts of your life will change, God will never change and you can always count on Him and the promises in His Word.
Deal well with separations from family and friends. If you and your spouse have sensed God leading your family to the military, remember that your spouse’s service isn’t just a career – it’s a calling. When a move pulls you away from family and friends, be willing to leave those you love in order to follow where God leads. Entrust your loved ones to God, knowing that He will care for them well.
Enjoy and learn from foreign assignments. When you receive orders to an overseas station, don’t despair. Ask God to help you overcome your fears and open your eyes to the opportunities you’ll have for fun and learning in another country. Be grateful for the chance to experience something new. Keep an open mind, and be humble and eager to learn. Be flexible enough to adapt to a different lifestyle. Don’t hide on the base; venture out whenever you can and get to know the local people. Ask God to help you build meaningful friendships with some of them. Remember that, not only do you represent the United States elsewhere in the world, but you’re also Christ’s ambassadors among unbelievers. So live out your faith in front of those who are watching you. Ask God to lead you to other believers in your new foreign assignment so you can worship and pray with them. Listen to others well, and speak clearly to them in ways they can understand, avoiding Christian jargon that may not make sense to them. Always remember that your true citizenship is in heaven, and choose God’s kingdom over the kingdom of this world whenever you’re faced with a conflict. Just as you would tell your children about life at home in the United States while you’re temporarily living overseas, be sure to tell them about their heavenly home and how they can get there. Recognize that homesickness is a good sign because it means that your heart is longing for another place. Spiritually, stay focused on the fact that you’re just passing through this world on your way to your permanent assignment with God in heaven. Travel light, giving your burdens to Christ regularly. Acknowledge that you need other believers just as much as they need you; do your best to be a good neighbor overseas. Just as you should learn where the American embassy is located in a foreign land, you should also find a good church and participate in it.
Keep investing in your marriage. Realize that you need to invest significant amounts of time and energy into your marriage on a regular basis to keep it going strong in the face of all the demands military life places on it. Be patient when waiting for your spouse to come home from a workday or deployment. Be kind when the frustrations of your lifestyle mount. Don’t envy couples who can see each other more often than you and your spouse. Don’t boast about what you’ve overcome in the past or what you plan for the future. Don’t be rude when you confronted by disappointment. Work diligently to serve others without being self-seeking, trusting that God will meet your needs. Don’t be easily angered when the government’s agenda conflicts with yours; trust God to work it all out. Keep no record of your spouse’s wrongs and always be willing to forgive, with God’s help. Don’t delight in evil but rejoice with the truth, even when the truth is hard to hear. Trust, hope, and persevere as God leads you and your spouse to new adventures together. Remember that love never fails, so count on God’s love for both of you. Make Christ the center of your marriage, making decisions in light of the fact that He is your top priority, and know that everything will fall into place with your marriage as a result.
Help your church start outreach ministries to military families. Pitch in to help organize efforts like: a military spouse support group, fellowship, or Bible study; a foster family program between civilian families and military families; childcare pools; a list of volunteers willing to help with military families with home and car repairs; a parents’ day/night out program; a big brother/big sister type of friendship and mentorship program for kids; and more.
Adapted from Hope for the Home Front: Winning the Emotional and Spiritual Battles of a Military Wife, copyright 2006 by Marshele Carter Waddell. Published by New Hope Publishers, Birmingham, Al., www.newhopepubl.com.
Marshele Carter Waddell is married to LCDR Mark Waddell, US Navy Seal, who for seven years served as an enlisted sailor and since 1989 has served as a commissioned officer. A passionate supporter of his service to the country, she has also experienced the exhausting toll of frequent and lengthy deployments that are common to most military families. Having left a career in journalism, marketing, and public relations, Marshéle’s highest calling and passions have been her marriage, her family, and writing. Together, she and her family have served the United States around the world. She has been a speaker to women’s audiences from Pennsylvania to South Korea. Marshéle is founder of One Hope Ministries. She makes her home in Virginia Beach with the Waddells’ three children, where she writes, speaks, and continues to support her husband’s work for the country.