“Mad Dog” James Mattis is his name, a retired four-star general who fought in three wars (Iraq, Afghanistan and Iraq a second time), a former Commander of the US Central Command, and newly nominated to become the Secretary of Defense in the new US administration. He is loved and admired because of his honesty, integrity, intelligence and courage under fire, and his devotion to the soldiers he serves with. In a recent interview, General Mattis spoke about the serious problem of soldiers returning from combat who struggle with the horrific effects of war and death (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). I was inspired by what he said:
“I would just say there is one misperception of our veterans, and that is they are somehow damaged goods. I don’t buy it. There is also something called post-traumatic growth. Going to war always causes stress. It’s inevitable, but it doesn’t have to cause damage, a disorder or syndrome. You don’t have to come out of it from a position of illness, you can come out of it from a position of wellness, of growth as a human being. I’ve seen people come out of this better – better husbands, fathers, kinder, more compassionate.”
That’s exactly what we see in our spiritual battle. When we fight God’s way, we always come through it better and stronger. In fact, spiritual warfare can only go two ways. Either you fight confidently with intelligence and faith, taking the hits to your weak areas by re-strategizing and fighting smarter, or you fight haphazardly with discouragement and disappointment at unanswered prayers.
People can endure years of haphazard fighting against the devil, but when they don’t learn to fight with intelligence, discouragement will lower their defenses and weaken their attacks. It leads to battle wounds and shellshock, and could potentially lead to totally give up on faith. Just like the general says, going to war always causes stress. It’s inevitable. Living for God is not easy, but how we choose to react makes all the difference. Instead of being wounded, we are purified and refined by God in the process. How? By determining these four non-negotiable points, and holding on to them until the end:
- God is our champion. We are guaranteed to win if we fight with Him at our side, even if it takes time and the end result seems so far away.
- God is rooting for us. His love and mercy is so amazing that even when we make a mistake, He doesn’t slap us down or humiliate us, He picks us up the very moment we repent, and He’s eager to put us right back on track. He wants us to win more that we do!
- What may feel like annoying, useless battles could actually be important and strategic. God sees the bigger picture and knows where we need to be strengthened, so don’t resist His guidance. If He allows you to go through an unpleasant battle (are there ever pleasant battles?), fighting means discovering what He wants you to do, think and be. The sooner you overcome, the sooner you can move on to better things.
- Our final goal: ultimate annihilation of the enemy. Even when the devil keeps coming back at you with new attacks, even when you feel like you deserve a break, even when emotions try to cloud your judgment. This has to be our default setting if we want to obey Jesus’ command to persevere until the end.
If you’re going through post-traumatic stress because of the many defeats in your spiritual battle, it’s time to re-strategize, to look deeper and discover how you can fight smarter. All the apostles ended their lives fighting the good fight, stronger, more joyful, and more certain that every battle was worth it. And look at how much they continue to impact the world 2000 years later. That’s the power we all need to be fighting in!
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing to all, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all might according to His glorious power, enduring everything with perseverance and patience joyfully, giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled us to be partakers in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of His dear Son, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-13 MEV