Yesterday I went to our annual Memorial Day neighborhood picnic, and I imagine that many of you enjoyed your day off work in the great outdoors too. But in between those splashes of sunshine and mouthfuls of hotdogs and watermelon over the long weekend and beyond, I hope you’ll join me in remembering why exactly this day was set aside: to honor those who died in the struggle to keep our country free.
Hard questions rise to the surface. Don’t we all pray for the troops to come home safely? And yet soldiers die, and we wonder if our prayers make any difference at all.
Below, Navy wife Leeana Tankersley shares her heart on the matter in this excerpt from Faith Deployed . . . Again: More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (Moody Publishers 2011).
But I cry to you for help, O LORD;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, O LORD, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?
I’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with prayer. At times, prayer has felt like the only lifeline I’ve had left. Other times, it has felt as ineffective as screaming into a tin can with a string tied to it.
I’ve had to give myself permission to wonder if prayer even makes a difference, to question whether or not my pleas actually turn the hand of God in any direction at all. Is God so cryptic and callous that He asks us to pray but then doesn’t actually take our prayers into consideration?
The Iraq war started when my husband and I were engaged. Without notice, he was off the radar, and I had no idea where he was or when I’d hear from him again. I remember the night the war started, listening to the radio reports of a helicopter down in the Gulf. The flight had originated from the last place I had heard from him, so of course I assumed the worst.
Prayer, in that wretched moment, seemed like the only possible answer and—at the very same time—a complete and utter mystery to me.
People send their loved ones off to war every day, praying for their safe return, and they never see them again. How do we reconcile such an inconvenient reality? My prayers may not save my husband. So, then, why do they matter?
I turn to the Psalms for some help with these types of questions. The Psalms are some of the rawest prayers in print. Particularly Psalm 88. It’s an outcry. I love that. And it’s questioning the very validity of a prayer life. I love that, too.
Kathleen Norris has a great description of prayer. She sees it as an incessant beginning. Every morning we get up, and our prayer life begins again. We never conquer it, achieve it, complete it. Prayer, she writes, is “being ourselves before God” (The Cloister Walk, 134, 282).
I’m trying to embrace this notion of beginning again and again and again. Going back to God, turning toward him, returning to him—even as that feels repetitive and unproductive. I’m trying to accept the fact that prayer doesn’t move along in a linear fashion, accomplishing as it goes. It moves in a spiral, drilling down into us like a jackhammer tilling up concrete.
Some days I can just manage to breathe in God’s direction and somehow, in the sacredness of that unspoken spoken, he breathes back. And, I’ve found, we can go a long way like that.
Sometimes we wish prayer to be the rudder that changes the course of our entire lives. Yet, I wonder if it’s our hearts that end up changing. And that’s more the point than anything.
Am I making prayer a part of my life?
Am I able to be honest with God about my questions and doubts?
God, I’m willing to pray even though I don’t completely understand how it all works. Give me the faith to return to you, each and every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
How do you honor and remember those who have fought for our country? In what specific ways can you say that you are grateful for their service?
About the Book
If your spouse or someone you know has been deployed recently, the stress of this situation will resonate with you. Jocelyn Green speaks directly to the wives of deployed seamen, marines, airmen, and soldiers, through the experiences of their spouses. This book is not “ten easy steps” for a painless life; instead, it is a collection of devotions that squarely addresses the challenges wives face when their husbands are away protecting freedom. Challenges like: how does a military wife maintain a strong sense of patriotism without allowing her country to become an idol? What good can possibly come from moving every two or three years? How can I be sure that God has a purpose for my life that’s as strong as His purpose for my husband’s? The foundation of this devotional is the unchanging character of God and the anchor of Jesus Christ, even amidst the shifting circumstances of a military family.