Alaska impacts. It’s raw and rigid yet calm and reassuring. Its beauty awes, and its vastness overwhelms. To deny a Creator when standing in the midst of the ultimate outdoors is difficult.
So one can only imagine what happens when Christ and The Great Land meet. At Operation Heal Our Patriots, as MercyMe sings, “the hurt and the Healer collide.” God’s glory, His majesty, and His sovereignty take hold, and miracles happen. That’s what I witnessed while serving with the Operation Heal Our Patriots’ staff.
A veteran, withdrawn and isolated, grabs a microphone, stands in front of a crowd, and pours his heart out to his wife … a miracle.
A veteran and his wife on the verge of divorce renew their marriage vows on the beach of Alaska … a miracle.
A veteran’s choice to allow Christ to fill the void in his life months earlier in California leads to his wife choosing Christ months later in Alaska … a miracle.
An active duty couple struggling due to deployments attends the marriage retreat and has “the honeymoon [they] never had” … a miracle.
A veteran and his wife, worried and discouraged they may not be able to enjoy the daily outdoor adventures due to a combat injury, experience every activity offered … a miracle.
A veteran’s wife caring continuously for the home for 13 years finally takes a break, spends a week learning to tie flies with her husband, and discovers a new hobby they can delight in together … a miracle.
A disconnected veteran and wife not sure how to converse with each other after years of hurt learn to fly fish together and share a long overdue kiss on the Alaskan waters … a miracle.
A veteran confessing to an OHOP military chaplain, “I want to fight God. I want to go a few rounds with Him,” walks to the chapel, battles it out, and closes the door behind him stronger, more at ease, and sure of Christ’s love and purpose for his life … a miracle.
A veteran’s wife and caretaker never failing to pray helps other women understand the “roller coaster” of post-traumatic stress and inspires us all by standing beside him to renew their vows … a miracle.
A medically retired veteran wrestling with worth and purpose leaves the lodge on a new mission to lead his family in faith, to share his story of survival, and to help others overcome their personal battles … a miracle.
A veteran coaches his wife, a gal afraid of heights with little climbing experience, to summit Tanalian Mountain … a miracle.
A veteran desiring since the age of 11 to be baptized to publicly show his commitment to Christ finally does so with the help of two military chaplains in the waters of Alaska … a miracle.
These examples may not fit your definition of a miracle, but for me, that is the only way each can be defined. You see, many veterans and active duty fight more than a physical battle; a battle of the heart, mind, and soul consumes them. For some, this war within their spirit is an occasional fight with spurts of gunfire that always seems to resurface just when they think they have it under control. For others it’s a daily, hours-long firefight they try desperately to manage on their own. This internal conflict affects their external world—their relationships and their families.
Hard-Pressed but not Crushed
At Operation Heal Our Patriots, these men and women seek to no longer rationalize, excuse, ignore, hide, guard, or suffer through their personal battles but rather identify the triggers, issues, and struggles. They ask the tough questions, expose the hurt, address the confusion, and realize that “we are hard-pressed but not crushed” (2 Corinthians 4:8).
In turn, the Holy Spirit resurrects their warrior spirits for a new fight that is fought and won under the direction and command of Christ, for it is by His wounds we are healed (1 Peter 2:24). By Christ’s ultimate sacrifice we are freed from the things that plague us.
When we acknowledge in the deep recesses of our hearts that “God is before all things”, we can take comfort knowing “in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). Turning the ugliness of a fallen world into good is God working in and through each of us.
If you love someone who serves or served our country and he or she is struggling, or if you’re reading this post and are a veteran or active duty who feels lost, know this: God is alive, active, attentive, and attracted to you.
He is always at work, always prodding and pursuing, always healing, always molding, always loving, always forgiving, and always willing to lead you and give you wisdom and answers (James 1:5). He welcomes our questions. He fights our battles. He fills our voids. He ends our search. His promises to us are alive and true today as they were more than 2,000 years ago:
Lack faith? Read Romans 10:17.
Doubt anything? Doubt everything? Mediate on Matthew 17:20.
Fearful? Memorize Isaiah 41:10, 2 Timothy 1:7, 1 John 4:18.
Tired? Remember Matthew 11:28.
Anxious? Reflect on Philippians 4:6-9.
Above all, find hope in Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (NKJV).
I was blessed to witness God’s glory being revealed in and through the sufferings of 40 veterans and their spouses this summer. Jesus, now an active part of their lives, proves that love wins the harshest of battles. And that’s nothing short of miraculous.