A few days ago we received this email from a young man:
In several months I will be going to Iraq to work in a Dignitary Protection Unit. 12 people, including several of my friends, have been killed in the past 6 months working in this role. As a Christian what can I do to find more courage and peace in this? What do I tell my family in helping them with their fears?
How would you answer that? What does Easter have to say to him? In my answer I quoted several verses about God's sovereignty over all of life, including Psalm 139:16, "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." That word “ordained” is very strong. It means that every day of your life was laid out by God before you were born. Then I told him this:
When you go to Iraq, you cannot possibly die unless God wills it so. I’ve heard it said this way, “A man of God is immortal until his work on earth is done.” You might die in Iraq, but then you might die in Oak Park too. And from God’s point of view, you are just as safe in Iraq as anywhere on the face of the earth. . . . On one hand, I guess it’s easy for me to say that because I’m not going to Iraq and you have the additional burden of knowing that several of your friends have died doing the very work you are being called to do. I cannot begin to understand what that means for you. But this much I know is true: God has called you to go to Iraq, and you are safer being with God in Iraq than being in the U.S. without Him. Nothing can touch you in Iraq that does not first past through the Father’s loving hands.
I closed my note to him with these words:
I’m happy to be writing this note to you during Holy Week. What a week this is. This is the week when we remember that Jesus conquered death. If he can beat death himself, he can raise us up also. I pray you will have an exuberant Easter. Thank you for serving our country on the front lines of freedom.
After sharing that with the congregation in the first service this morning, a young woman in uniform asked to speak with me. She could not have been more than 19 or 20 years old. She has just been informed that her unit may be sent to Iraq. She thanked me for what I had said in the sermon, and asked how to help her parents who worry about what might happen to her. My answer was simple. Good parents always worry about their children, no matter where they are. The best thing you can do is to share with them what I shared with the soldier who wrote me. As they see your faith, they will grow stronger and their fears will not be so overwhelming. Then she added, "But sometimes I am afraid myself." That's perfectly natural. The war in Iraq isn't a "normal" war where you can easily tell the good guys from the bad guys. Fear in not always a bad thing. It may keep you alive one day. And fear will certainly keep you on your knees. If you were never afraid, you wouldn't pray as much. She smiled when I said that and our conversation ended.
When we face danger, no truth means more than the sovereignty of God. I pray for the young man and for the young woman who spoke to me, and I pray for all the men and women of our Armed Forces. God bless each one. Easter is a good time to remember that because our Lord conquered death, we can go where he leads us, even to Iraq if necessary, safer there with him than anywhere else without him.
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