PTSD FROM ALL AMERICA’S WARS
The following information on PTSD anecdotes was provided to me by a fellow Vietnam veteran who was wounded in Vietnam as a Navy Corpsman assigned to the Marines. After the case study for each war there will be suggestions for a spiritual approach to the issues affecting veterans.
For all warriors needing healing there are some key factors that apply universally. The war, theater, service or enemy all have little to do with a combat veteran developing PTSD. Combat PTSD all stems from dangerous situations where their or their comrades’ lives/health were at stake. Most combat veterans with PTSD had multi-traumas rather than just one traumatic incident.
Essentially everyone with PTSD finds their traumas to be unique and dealing with issues that fall into some broad categories such as:
1) Something I did in the war.
- Something wrong (legally and/or morally)
- Something legal/correct but with painful results for self or comrades for which I blame myself.
2) Something I did not do which resulted in a painful result for self or comrades.
- Wasn’t paying attention/moving down a trail and someone was wounded.
- Was scared and not looking; therefore I am to blame for what resulted.
- Was on R&R or back at the dentist when someone took my squad on patrol and my replacement was killed or injured.
3) Something happened to me; wounds/capture.
4) Something happened to others which I saw and found to be overwhelming.
While in those situations the person may have functioned very well and been much respected. As combat exposure increases over more exposure or more horrific situations(i.e. being overrun) the person may begin to wear down and begin to become dysfunctional to varying degrees.
Many people may show signs of PTSD during combat; or after combat but back stateside prior to re-enlistment or discharge; or not for months, years, or decades.
The two major types are delayed and chronic.
(Spiritual Comments) We suffer great guilt and are judging ourselves for our perceived or real errors and mistakes. There is tremendous grief and sadness and a recollection of the fears from our battlefields.
Our errors on the battlefield are not always even close to being sins. Many times they were due to circumstances beyond our control, misjudgments in the fog of war, or faulty choices under pressure. When this is the case, we need to forgive ourselves. If what we did was legally or morally wrong, we must confess it as a sin, and we will be forgiven. In I John 1:9 it is written, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We will be forgiven. It is written! Uncle Sam needed us, we went, we suffered, we returned with huge losses to our bodies, souls, and spirits. Now we need something. Jesus took the penalty on the cross at Calvary for anything we ever did or did not do. He is the answer to what we need to heal the hurts of our wars. When our past haunts us, we need to be reminded of Colossians 1:21-22, “And you were once alienated and hostile in mind because of your evil actions. But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless and blameless before Him.”
Dr. Bobby Welch was the president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 2004-2006. He was airborne ranger and jungle expert-qualified before he went to serve in Vietnam where he was severely wounded.
He and I both know that acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior will not of and by itself bring healing from the ravages of war. Even when we go to the next higher plateau in our spiritual growth where Jesus becomes Lord will we necessarily miraculously be able to have lifted from us all the horrors of our wartime experiences, but both those spiritual choices lay the ground work and basic training to have the best opportunity to begin our healing process. Our spiritual life and maturing may not mean we can forget about psychotherapy, pills, or group therapy, but we can go a long way to healing through our spiritual dimension and growth. It worked for Dr. Welch and for me.
As a younger man, before Vietnam Dr. Welch had a spiritual transformation and in his book, You the Warrior Leader he related this:
“We knelt on our knees, and he led me to pray what’s affectionately called “the Sinner’s Prayer”: “Dear Jesus. I believe that You died on the cross for my sins and that You arose from the grave. I now ask You to forgive me of my sins, come into my heart, and save my soul.”
It was the first time I think I had ever prayed out loud, maybe the first time I had ever really prayed. Most of the things I was praying about I did not understand very well. But the Lord understood. He understood I needed and wanted my life to change, that I trusted His Word, that I believed the testimony of these Christians whom I had been watching and hearing, including this pastor who was helping me.
The reality is that Jesus did come into me. And He changed me and my life. If such an experience has never happened in your spiritual life – if you are not certain you would go to heaven when you die, let me urge you to sincerely pray that simple “sinner’s prayer” as your own heartfelt commitment to Jesus.
In the years that followed, I grew spiritually as a new Christian. Then I left for college. For the next four or five years I got off course. I lost my way in following Christ. It was just like soldiers in combat. Getting off course can be deadly. I was so far off the right path that if you had seen me you would have exclaimed, “If that’s a Christian, forget it. I don’t want to be one!” While I did not do a lot of things most people associate with being away from the Lord, I still was way off course.” (Page 211)
Dr. Welch knew he would go to Heaven had he died in Vietnam. We and many other people who have been to war can make quantum leaps for healing by praying and believing in the power of the simple prayer above. It “preps the landing zone” for our future earthly battles. Then we can bring all the firepower to bear from God. God’s power brought down from Heaven is like bringing up the mortars, artillery, air strikes, and naval bombardments as we go on the assault for our challenges.
Scripture quotations from PTSD Sections are taken from The Soldier’s Bible (Holman Christian Standard Bible) copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers.
PTSD FROM WORLD WAR II
WWII (Pacific vet) saw all the things the Japanese military had done to American Marines/GI’s and took it out on them during his next campaign/island invasion. He describes emptying the clip into the head to make sure the enemy is dead. He may bash in the face and take souvenir teeth which he keeps in a jar at home in a locked closet. At the time he gave no thought to his actions, everyone was doing it and the war was on. He got out of the service and became a husband, father, and grandfather as well as a farmer/rancher. He found himself getting irritable and angry at each new war America entered. He reports when he went to Hawaii with his family for his 50th wedding anniversary he did not understand his anger at seeing all the Japanese and he remained isolated from the family and is blamed for ruining the vacation celebration. He would not talk nor has he ever talked to any family member about his memories, dreams, and thoughts. Now in his 80’s he realizes he will be dying one day and knows he will meet his Maker and is worried about the fact he’ll have to deal with 1) his guilt over the deaths and atrocities and 2) his guilt he has been unable to as intimate with his family or cannot tolerate the noise of his grandchildren and is seen as too grumpy.
(Spiritual comments): In the heat of the pressures of battle many young soldiers do things way out of the ordinary of what they ever would do in the normal course of their life. It is a reaction to the atrocities typically initiated first by a very savage enemy we fought in the Pacific. It becomes a savage response itself and the guilt trip lasts usually until death. Most probably it causes the warrior to believe he has sinned. The warrior must confront and repent of those sins. Again our God has given us words in Psalm 51 for us to read and appropriate for ourselves, “Be gracious to me, God… blot out my rebellion. Wash away my guilt, and cleanse me from my sin. For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me… purify me…and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Let me bear joy and gladness; …save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God, …” If the warrior can realize his guilt may be washed away by the blood Jesus shed for him for the forgiveness of his sins, a release will occur that will open him up to joy and peace and reconciliation and out reach to his family.
Howard J. Olsen in Wounded Soldiers Chosen Lives says, “Those who have not resolved their pain, or those who obsess about the injustice done them, have the greatest problem with anger.” We have the choice, though, not to succumb and continue to harbor the resentment which leads to bitterness about the enemy we encountered or toward ourselves. Matthew 6: 14-15 talks about forgiveness of others, “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well, but if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.” The choice is available to finally lay aside bitterness.
PTSD FROM KOREAN WAR
Korean combat veteran reports his unit setup a mine field in a narrow gap while they retreated from the rapidly advancing North Korean/Chinese armies. His platoon remained back to slow the enemy advance so the rest of his unit could get back to safety. While there he witnessed the enemy herd Korean civilians in front of them through the gap in order to have them setoff the mines making sure their soldiers would survive. He witnessed the civilians get blown up from the mines he set. In fact he saw one young woman caring for her child. Only four hours earlier he had given her some food and bandages for her and her child. He has lived without marrying or without fathering any children. He does not tolerate being around Korean people now. He does not tolerate crowds and loud noise makes him extremely irritable. He dreams of their faces often. He knows he can never be forgiven and has abandoned his spirituality.
(Spiritual Comments): This warrior committed no sin, but nonetheless harbors guilt feelings and remorse. In Achilles in Vietnam by Jonathan Shay, M.D., Ph D., he relates “Shrinkage of the social horizon after betrayal of ‘what’s right’ may persist long into civilian life. Safe nonviolent attachments to others can become virtually impossible… Personal relationships of work, love, or friendship therefore become extraordinarily difficult.”
If the military actions committed were considered sinful, the key spiritual issue is to ask forgiveness from God. Then one must believe he receives it for himself and also forgives others. The fact is the Koreans who perpetuated the offense were the “enemy” Koreans, not the South Koreans we went to Korea to save from communism. The South Koreans were our allies.
Another close friend, a Korean war hero, feigned death as the enemy killed the other American with him. He took the safety off a grenade and put it under himself so that if rolled over, he would take several enemy with him. Miraculously, the enemy considered him dead and left him. Friendly troops rescued him.
These memories never depart. No amount of pills, talking about it, or even God’s love can erase the tapes of combat memories, but individuals do report increased comfort; understanding; a return of hope; and a reduction of interference in their lives from those war memories by accepting God’s love. That can be achieved through self help; spiritual counseling; and in some cases secular counseling as long as spiritual issues can be explored with respect to the war experiences.”
When teaching from the book of Genesis and the story of Joseph forgiving his brothers who sold him into slavery my pastor wrote this, “…see that while bad things have happened to you and you have been materially, emotionally, or physically harmed, it is time to let go of the grudges and instead thank God for the new future He created for your life.
For some it will be easy. For some it will require great prayer and trust. But is there ever really any future in really hating someone for what they did to you? Never! God is God, and He can make very, very good things happen out of very, very bad things. Trust and you will see.”
PTSD FROM VIETNAM WAR
Vietnam vet did one year in combat and followed orders which were legal and consistent with the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He reports his unit was overrun twice during the year and because he joined the unit after it had gone to Vietnam he did not know anyone and then between the unit being overrun and the others being rotated home at different rates he cannot remember names or faces and feels as if he went through it alone or that it is all a fantasy. He came home and wanting to belong went to the veterans post in his small town only to be rebuffed as not having won the war. He was allowed to join but the WWII vets did not include him in their activities. He found war movies and new wars triggered massive anger and he divorced to avoid hurting people he loved (even though they did not feel he loved them). He got a degree but never used it. He avoided working indoors where he just described feeling trapped and passed on promotions and other good jobs in order to work outside as a landscaper. When he isn’t working, he is at the veteran’s post just getting drunk. He reports feeling empty or angry but nothing in-between. He won’t go to church (it is inside) and he does not feel anything spiritually anymore despite growing up (fill in the denomination).
(Spiritual Comment): Of all the wars our warriors have gone off to fight our Vietnam veterans have faced the most complicated healing issues compounded by the lack of support from the war at home. The classic Vietnam vet story I have heard is related by Chuck Dean in his book NamVet Making Peace With Your Past.
After Vietnam Chuck experienced it all, …flashbacks, depression, fits of rage, and night shakes, emotional numbing, substance abuse, helplessness.” A friend told Chuck, “Chuck, you need the Lord.” Chuck said he had tried everything else so he tried Jesus. Chuck “….prayed with him, giving my heart, soul, and life to the Lord Jesus Christ.” His new condition was expressed as, “This calming, secure sensibility replaced the feelings of death, fear, and agony that I had experienced and expected to experience for the rest of my life.” It worked for him. I have no better advice for our Vietnam Vets other than to read and believe John 3:16, “For God so loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only son so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Joe Moss is a Vietnam vet, double leg amputee friend of mine in Dallas and was spiraling down with substance abuse. On a late night television show he heard John 3:16 preached and the next morning he never touched another bad substance again. He was cured by believing in Jesus.
An army veteran friend in Dallas was a double abuser, alcohol and drugs. He was at the end of his rope as a young drill sergeant in the Army and picked up his bible one night and the words of John 3:16 got him back on track. He dedicated his life to God’s work and became a pastor.
My friend John Tuthill, a Marine aviator who served in Vietnam concluded, “We all pick up burdens as we travel the road of life, and the Vietnam veteran has more than his share. These burdens look like boulders on life’s road behind us. We can’t remove those boulders from our past, all that we can do is recognize them for what they are, accept them, and be watchful that we keep life’s road ahead of us clear. God doesn’t want us to forget the past. He wants us to understand it, to accept its unchangeability, to learn from it, to remember our friends, to look at those boulders as sign posts to help keep us and others from creating more boulders because of a focus on that which we cannot change.”
In NamVet Chuck concluded, “God did not go AWOL in Vietnam. Instead he kept you alive and brought you back for a purpose. But you won’t discover that purpose until you make peace with Vietnam and with God.”
I once met Mac Gober at a Vietnam Veterans conference in Virginia. A summary of Mac’s life is found in Vietnam Veterans’ Bible Tyndale House Publishers copyright 1990. He relates, “…I also started using drugs. The combination of drugs, inward bitterness, and daily anguish of war made me cruel…” He joined a motorcycle gang and was one “bad dude”. He said, “I hurt so bad inside and I had nowhere else to go, so one day I simply prayed and turned my life over to Christ. But I discovered that God did and he proved it by sending His only Son, Jesus to die for me and take away my sin. When I realized that, all the hate and bitterness I felt inside for my father, for the inhumanity I saw in Vietnam, for the rejection I experienced when I came home – was released- it was incredible! I became a different person overnight.”
This commitment to Jesus worked for Joe, John, Chuck, Mac and me. Try it yourself! If nothing else has worked, what do you have to lose?
PTSD FROM DESERT STORM
A Desert Storm veteran spent a decade training in the military for war and then went to war. He had become accustomed to seeing and smelling the burned bodies from the destroyed Iraqi tank sites on the advance into Iraq but could tolerate it because they were getting rid of the second coming of Hitler and freeing the Kuwaiti people. At one bunker complex he had his squad search the complex and he got into a hand to hand fight with a hidden enemy who lurched out at him. The fight became primitive and went on for ten minutes which seemed like an eternity until he managed to get at his knife and cut the enemy’s throat. He was tired and sat down to smoke a cigarette and then noticed his bloody hands and uniform and saw the blood on his cigarette. He vomited and began to think of the dead man’s family and that they would never know what happened to him.
(Spiritual Comments): This really gets down to the trauma of warriors where it is the most personal it can get, taking the life of another combatant and the ensuing memories of the incident. Personally, I killed no one in my war, however, I was originally bitter and asked the question, “Why me for my amputations?” Eventually the wisdom I achieved was that I was a triple volunteer, West Point, Vietnam, Special Forces. I put myself in harm’s way. Reality therapy in a larger sense is that most of us in the military are volunteers. We submit ourselves to the risks of killing or being killed.
Dr. Bobby Welch, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 2004-2006 was a warrior in Vietnam where he was wounded and decorated for valor. In his book You the Warrior Leader he wrote this:
“It is hard to imagine what it is like to be face to face in close quarters with another madman who is trying-just like you- to kill to live. There is no room for rifles – just bare hands, teeth, knives, or whatever weapon is handy. In just a minute it is all over. But the person who killed to live is now smothering and drowning, surrounded by the smell of gun powder, spit, sweat, blood, and body fluids. He wants out of that situation as quickly as possible. He’s gasping for fresh air to confirm that he is still alive.” (page 223)
Dr. Welsh was shot in the chest by an enemy at very close range and almost died. He was medevacked by helicopter off the battlefield, but he lived.
Previously he stood over the body of a dead soldier and he describes the experience:
“At that instant my eyes focused on a small picture all mashed up in the bottom of the pouch. It was damp, cracked, and crumpled. When I unfolded it, I felt the sting in my gut and eyes at the same time. It was a picture of this young man and his wife on their wedding day, both with big happy smiles. I was also a young, recently married soldier with a picture of my dear wife in my pocket.
Suddenly the reality of war hit me harder than ever before. This could be me on the ground dead. This unknown enemy could be standing over my body with my wife’s picture. But I was extremely glad it was this way – him dead and me alive. Now I knew why warriors of old often stood over the bodies of their foe and shouted victoriously. They were glad they were still alive. Right there I renewed my vow to live – This is not going to happen to me! Never ever!” (Page 202)
The better of the two consequences in close combat could not have been expressed any more succinctly than by Dr. Welch.
One of my Vietnam war Marine brothers survived the siege at Khe Sanh in 1968. Part of his PTSD was related to the guilt of killing the enemy. Eventually he received his comfort and healing on this issue by having a minister differentiate for him the contrast between murder and killing.
A very simple contrast is found at the website Bible.com in an analysis written by Betty Miller in a section titled “What Does the Bible Say About…War?” She writes about the bible definition of murder this way:
“God knew when He created men with free wills that not all would follow and obey Him. However, He also knew that many would want to love and serve Him. In giving men free will, He also had to establish laws for men to live by. When we look at the Ten Commandments listed in Exodus 20:1-17, we can see that these laws were given for the good of mankind. One of these laws is in verse 13: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ You may wonder if God said ‘do not kill’, why He would then decree that governments could send men to war to kill other men. The reason is that the Hebrew meaning of the word translated as ‘kill’ actually means ‘murder’ or ‘to slay someone in a violent manner unjustly’. So, in the Ten Commandments God is saying, ‘Thou shalt not murder’. Unjust premeditated killing with the wrong motives of hatred, vengeance, greed, jealousy, etc. is murder. Killing in self defense to protect oneself is not murder… The very founders of this nation were known to carry a Bible in one hand and a musket in the other in order to defend the freedom they sought here. The freedom to worship God was one of those freedoms they fought for and died for.”
Our warriors who took other combatant’s lives in hand-to-hand combat may be volunteers and may know they killed, and did not murder, but they still live with the horrible memories and the guilt. For the soldier in the anecdote above he will never be the same. It is part of the burden he carries and our tapes of the blood spilled and the horror and the intrusive thoughts will always be there. For me I cannot erase the memories of the loss of my legs, the pain, or the sorrow and the soldier who kills in hand-to-hand combat cannot erase and play the tape over. The best we can do is to be grateful we returned and to live each day in God’s world as a day bequeathed to us to have lived and returned. We must feel the pride in doing our duty in the endeavor in which we placed ourselves by choices and realize for the warriors that it was better that the family of the killed grieve than our own.
PTSD FROM IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
An Operation Iraqi Freedom Marine reported that the initial invasion was a piece of cake with the Shiites offering food and tea as they advanced towards Baghdad and only a couple of minor injuries to his men mostly from riding the tracked vehicles for days on top of each other. He left after the fall of the statue but came back with the same unit and many of the same men eight months later and found the civilians now to be sullen/hostile towards him and his men where eight months earlier they had welcomed them. Now they stayed in a rear armed walled compound when they weren’t patrolling the streets of the Sunni triangle. Now they were getting wounded from sniper fire they could often never find or they were wounded/killed by IEDs and they could never get even. It was becoming more difficult to keep the new men from indiscriminate killing. They were proud of their advance into Fallujah in April 2004 and angry when it was stopped – “had them on the run, now they’ll get away” and we will give it up and have to be back. In fact he is angry now that other units were credited with the victory there only seven months later when Fallujah was retaken completely (and then given up). He is home now but finds staying in the service with a young family is his only option.
But life at home is too boring and he hears and reads about the dissent about the war and the profits companies are making. He is angry and cannot sit still and is becoming distant from his family and wants to stay in the NCO club with people who understand him.
(Spiritual Comments): From my own Vietnam War I know we made many strategic and tactical errors as were made in Iraq and Afghanistan. I originally felt bitter about those of my age bracket that did not serve and I remain somewhat disdainful of those who have never served, but reap the financial and economic benefits of the peaceful society, financial prosperity and strong economy and freedom from terror bought by the blood, sweat, and tears and very lives of those of us who were motivated to be in the military. It is natural for us to gravitate to those who faced the same challenges of life we faced.
We can never be the same upon return from the traumatic experiences of our wars. Liberty Savard is an extraordinary minister of God’s word and Jesus’ love and I have read two of her books Shattering Your Strongholds and Breaking the Power which express in the simplest, but most profound manner the issues we face from our wars.
I attribute the remainder of this case study response to her excellent teaching from Liberty Savard Ministries, Inc. of Sacramento, California. Because of the traumatic facts of our wartime experiences (whose original reasons are unchangeable) we are left with unhealed hurts, unresolved issues, and unmet needs. These are all reflected in the above case studies. These three sources of our dis-ease in life have caused the wrong behaviors in which we have indulged. The hurts, issues, and needs have invaded our thoughts and derived emotions of fear, distrust, pain, unforgiveness, resentment, anger, confusion, insecurity, lust, hopelessness, neediness, inferiority, and wrong desires. These emotions have caused us to make choices of behaviors to reflect our responses to the emotions. The actions taken have had fearful consequences; substance abuse, denial, victim mentality, intolerance, criticalness, wrong kinds of relationships, overeating, sexual gratification, and soul ties, to name a few.
We develop our coping mechanisms to mask our pain. Even if we become Christians by believing in Jesus as Savior, he cannot become Lord of our life until we break up the “Strongholds” of our life where we hide behind false logic and reasoning to defend our behaviors.
Our only hope for final healing as warriors is to bring the power of the Holy Sprit into our life to reveal to us what we need to change in behavior and our thought processes. Only Jesus can heal our war wounds. Our goal is to get to the point where we have arrived at Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and freedom to the prisoners.”
Because of where we have been, we can help others be healed as can we ourselves be healed.
GOD BLESS YOU MY FELLOW WARRIORS.
SYMPTOMS OF POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)
There are certain symptoms of PTSD that are experienced in whole or part by combat veterans. Their lingering effects rob us of the joy of life. I have experienced almost all of them at one time or another and the following is an attempt to address each one with a spiritual approach. If one continues to be burdened by them and the group sessions, individual psychotherapy, and pills have not brought relief, there is nothing to be lost by trying God and what is available for us in the Christian biblical scriptures. Try it. It just may work and it is my fervent prayer that it will provide a rest and relaxation time off the front lines of our hurts from our wars.
INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS AND FLASHBACKS
Personally my memories from the sadness of Dak To, my hospitalization and my ugly “stumps” will always be with me, but that was in the past as horrific as it was. My mind has become a soulful battlefield. Sometimes I try the simple effort of addressing negative thoughts by barking out orders, “Be gone in the name of Jesus.” Also discipline of the mind must be exerted because the events were in the past. We must bring Jesus to our sad places for His healing. I believe and repeat Philippians 4:6: “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” In II Corinthians 10:4-6 it is written, “…we demolish arguments…taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” We can live in the present and for the future and not in the past. The horrors were THEN. This is NOW.
Reach out to others and be involved in the lives of your family, spouses, children, and grandchildren. Take an interest in others and away from yourself. Quit feeling sorry for yourself. The best way to do that is to reach out to help others. My God has always been there for me even in my years of bitterness and grief. Everyone has problems of one type or another. Mark Twain once said, “Life is one damn thing after another.” One veteran told me he was isolated from his son and there was no communication with him. I prayed specifically in agreement with him that there would be a bonding. Several weeks later he returned and reported the prayer had worked and he and his son had begun talking again. (Read Psalm 13)
Some of my older vet friends say, “I break down a lot more now.” It is a release from our numbing. I encourage the expression of our emotions and I tell them it is ok for us to cry. We are only here once (I don’t believe in reincarnation). We have a choice to remain numbed or do something about it. Happiness is a Choice was written by a Dr. Richard Meier. We are the only one individually who can change our attitude and choose to enjoy this life we were saved to re-enter and enjoy. Our life may be described as in Psalm 102:11, “My days are like a lengthening shadow, and I wither away like grass,” but (Vs. 17) “He will pay attention to the prayer of the destitute and will not despise their prayer.” Try prayer. If you believe in faith, God will answer through Jesus, our Savior, who loves us unconditionally. We can come out of the darkness of our soul.
Depression is often an impression caused by fear. Our fears bring us back in to ourselves. Fear brings us loss of hope, and then we lose faith in ourselves, our country and our ability to return to a world of peace and joy. In I Timothy 1:7 it is written, “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgment. Through Christ we can be relieved of depression. I was. I was treated by a psychiatrist from 1967-1973, but since then I have needed no anti-depressants.
From Psalm 42:5 ask yourself,
“Why am I so depressed?
Why this turmoil within me?
Put your hope in God for I will still praise Him,
my Savior and my God.”
Ask yourself what gets you angry and why? What are your triggers? What bothers you? If you are angry at yourself, forgive yourself. If you are angry at others for perceived hurts, forgive them or you will not be forgiven. We read in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.”
Bitterness usually follows from our anger. In Hebrews 12:15, we learn, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many.”
Our past hurts us and when it does, we can turn to Colossians 1:21-22. “And you were once alienated and hostile in mind because of your evil actions. But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him.”
We are given very specific Godly instructions about anger. In Ephesians 4:26-27, “Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the Devil an opportunity”. This means if you harbor anger, the Devil has the legal authority in the spiritual world to attack us so it is not just small arms fire hitting us, but a full-fledged artillery barrage with air support. Give up the anger!
Usually the atrocities are committed first by the enemy and we follow their lead with our unbridled anger as a response. Ask Jesus for forgiveness. Jesus died on the cross for all our sins ever committed. We are covered spiritually even for actions on long ago and faraway battlefields. In our wars we had to kill or be killed. We harbor the thoughts of horrible actions we perpetrated, but our God’s love can cleanse us totally.
Address the underlying issues that cause us to seek the pleasure, the escape, the masking. Start with a confession of the problem which is the addition. Be totally honest. Give it up to our God so He can come in to our hidden places. Typically, the lament and excuse is, “I can’t stop (or don’t want to)”. Therefore it must be a divine and miraculous occurrence for the healing. The underlying problems that caused the need for the escape must be addressed. Admit you are powerless and need the supernatural power of God to be brought to bear.
Forgive oneself and others for mistakes, errors, and misjudgments. Confession to God removes it from your personal spiritual 201 file and especially from the Lord’s records for our commission of atrocities and mistakes. How long does one want to carry the burdens? It is long enough already. When we confess, God buries it deep in the ocean and posts a sign, “No fishing.”
ANXIETY AND NERVOUSNESS
Anxiety and nervousness from events long ago and far away are not for today. We are no longer on patrol, no longer in the jungle, no longer under fire, not awaiting an attack nor a roadside Improvised Explosive Device. Today is today and we are back by the grace of God.
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest from yourselves.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
Obviously some of the causes of our anxiety are due to issues developed since our wars. Those have to be addressed and set straight. Conduct a three column SPIRITUAL AUDIT in this way: In column one list everything causing your anxiety and nervousness. In column two, write down what it would take to address (and hopefully solve or bring closure to) the issues in column one. Then in column three, write down a specific prayer to make column two come about by asking God’s divine power to enter and be brought into the solution.
When our eyes are off ourselves and on others and we have addressed all the areas above, this one may disappear.
“Tell it like it is.” In the military most of us lived by this. The truth must be accepted. We can choose to blame all our situations, conditions, and responses on our war experience. However, in truth we may be unable to cope with post-war challenges and desire to blame others or whatever and not just our wars. Place the blame in the context of what caused it and when. For war or post-war, our Lord can help the resolution.
A World War II veteran friend married in 1948 and six months after his marriage he woke up one night in bed thinking his wife was a German soldier and he tried to choke her. She managed to push him away. His “trigger” for that episode had been a funeral that day where he had viewed his grandmother’s body in an open casket.
His wife forgave him quickly, but he could not forgive himself. He was angry at himself and was anxious that he would do it again. He maintained a guilt complex and would not/could not forgive himself until fifty-six years later (2004) in a church bible study. He related the guilt he had felt all those years for the spousal assault. They stopped and prayed that the Lord would remove the guilt feeling.
Three nights later at midnight he heard an audible voice which said, “…turn it loose and let it go!” It finally was gone and he forgave himself.
Spouses, children, family and friends must be quick to forgive our veterans when they exhibit violent behavior and the above-mentioned symptoms. Lovingly through prayer they must reach out to be a part of the healing team for our returned combatants. With God’s help, healing will come.
We can make the choice to take responsibility for our lives and get ourselves straight spiritually through trust in God and His son, Jesus. Turn our lives over to Him, acknowledging it cannot be handled by ourselves, and depending on the divine help which is available. God is the strongest unit of reserves and reinforcements to move into the front lines with us.
Repeat and believe this from John 3:16, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
We came home, albeit scarred and maimed from the battlefields, and we are able to live forever in spirit after our bodily deaths according to John 3:16. Believe it and let the Bible become your new textbook and manual for the rest of your tour of duty on earth.