Tomorrow morning, I will have the privilege of leading our BCC class in a short morning devotional. There will be no formal time of worship but a hymn or two, a time of prayer, and some brief reflections on God’s word.
As I prepare for this time, my heart cannot help but be drawn to many of the great difficulties of ministry in a military context…especially in deployed settings. To steal from Dickens, deployments are the best of times and worst of times. They are the best of times in that soldiers and airmen finally get to see the fruition of countless hours or even years of preparation, as they execute the tasks for which they have tirelessly trained. They are the worst of times because of separation from family, friends, home, church, and all things familiar. As you might expect, there are many trials and much suffering during deployments. Fortunately, it is into this suffering that chaplains have the privilege of speaking words of comfort and peace.
You may be thinking, “How can you possibly bring words of peace into the midst of such suffering?” Many have asked and tried to answer the question, but I honestly think this is the wrong question to ask because it pursues peace from a worldly perspective, as the absence of trouble. Jesus promised a different peace, a peace that surpasses understanding (Phil 4.7). “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn 15.27).
Luther describes this peace beautifully:
You must not think that I [Jesus] give you peace such as the world gives. The world considers that peace means the removal of trouble or affliction…such peace, however, Christ does not give. He allows the affliction to remain and to oppress; yet he employs different tactics to bestow peace: he changes the heart, removing it from the affliction, not the affliction from the heart. (Sermons, Vol III)
We would do well to be reminded to seek this other-worldly peace of Christ, not expecting him to remove us from trouble but rejoicing that Emmanuel (God with us) comes to us in our suffering, reminding us of his gracious forgiveness and his promise never to leave or forsake us. Thanks be to God! Amen.