Treating Combat Fatigue

CHRISTIANS ARE SOLDIERS (2 Tim. 2:4).

They fight ongoing battles (Eph. 6:121 Tim. 1:19; 6:11,122 Tim. 4:72 Cor. 10:4) in a spiritual war (Rev. 12:17).

Battles inevitably produce casualties — lots of them, and casualties require medical (Mat. 9:12) attention.

The church — not the building, is a sort of front line M.A.S.H. unit — a divine trauma center.

Padded pews serve as medical stretchers for the injured.

Services house the wounded and hurting.

Assemblies offer temporary shelter and protection to traumatized infantrymen.

They suffer from the effects of divorce, sexual promiscuity, envy, addiction, hostility, stress, conflict, abandonment, lost love, guilt, hopelessness, infidelity, jealousy, selfishness, etc.

Their hearts have been scarred from injuries received while engaged in fierce warfare with the enemy — Satan (Rev. 12:101 Pet. 5:8John 12:312 Cor. 4:4Eph. 2:2).

Wounded souls are usually not too difficult to spot in the ranks of the congregation.

You can often see hurt in the eyes.

You can hear it in broken voices.

Pale expressions.

Fallen spirits.

Blank stares.

Furrowed brows.

Tears.

Internal battle scars tend to surface in the countenance.

While these soldier’s bodies still function, their minds have ceased to do so.

Thinking is much too painful.

Memory is a plague.

Sleep is restless and fitful.

Blow after blow have taken their terrible toll.

Emotional stress-fractures are the tell-tale symptoms of the cumulative assaults on the spirit.

GIs called it “combat fatigue” or PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

The biblical term is “weariness” (Gal. 6:9 NKJV).

Author and military historian John C. McManus wrote:

“Sometimes the wounds a man received were not physical but mental. For some the stress of combat became too much and they could no longer function. This condition, called shell shock in World War I, and combat fatigue or exhaustion in World War II, was fairly common among U.S. combat soldiers. Although there were those who thought of battle fatigue as cowardice, Gen. George Patton being the most notable of this group, it became obvious during the war that this was patently false. According to one study, it could safely be expected that close to 10 percent of the men in an infantry outfit would eventually become combat fatigue casualties…”1

“He is not a coward. The last thing in the world he wants hung on him is cowardice. He starts a personal war within himself, his conscience on one side and his instinct for self preservation on the other. His physical fatigue carries a lot of weight in the argument. The tug-of-war in his mind gets worse and worse. He starts trembling so bad [sic] he can’t hold his rifle. He doesn’t want to shake but he does, and that solves his problem. Involuntarily he becomes physically incapable. Properly treated he’ll be okay in a few days-when he’s had SOME HOT CHOW, A FEW NIGHTS OF SLEEP and A CHANCE TO GET HIS TROUBLE OFF HIS CHEST.”2

“This disabling condition usually strikes after a soldier has been subjected to long and severe shelling or enemy small arms fire. A soldier reaches the point of ‘I can’t take it anymore…’…This condition is just as much a combat wound as a piece of shell piercing the body…”3

From a spiritual perspective, when our comrades-in-arms suffer from combat fatigue, we need to be ready to administer aid.

We need to be spiritual medics (Luke 10:33-35Gal. 6:2).

But how can we help those who are experiencing such intense heartache and difficulty…?

1. See that they get plenty of hot chow. While a covered dish is always appreciated, the kind of food wounded Christian soldiers need most of all is that which endures. “He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness” (Psa. 107:9, cf.5). The eternal teachings of Jesus provide needed sustenance (John 6:27Psa. 103:52 Pet. 2:2) to the war-weary.

2. Encourage them to get sufficient rest and sleep. Time away from the battle front is imperative if soldiers are ever to recover and fight again. Even The Commander-In-Chief (of the spiritual army) Himself took an occasional “furlough” (Mark 6:31) from His engagements — “He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself…” (Mat. 14:13).

3. Urge them to get their troubles off their chest. Soldiers who have endured severe shelling need a sympathetic, listening ear. Fellow soldiers can listen and appreciate their comrades’ perspective (Pro. 17:17; 18:24Jas. 5:16), and The Commander will also be attentive. “The Lord will hear when I call to Him…” (Psa. 4:3; 27:2; 130:2).

1 John C. McManus, “The World of the Combat Soldier,” The Deadly Brotherhood: The American Combat Soldier in WWII, 162

2 Ibid

3 Ibid

What Songbook Did Jesus Sing From?

Jesus had a favorite songbook.

THINK ABOUT IT. Jesus was a Jew—and when He and His first-century Hebrew peers engaged in vocal worship (cf. Mat. 26:26-30), they used a songbook of sorts. Of course, there were obviously no spiralbound or hardbound songbooks to read from, and there were no electronic Paperless Hymnals to display on a screen like we use in the 21st century.

So what specific hymnal did the Jews employ? Was it some form of OT Christian Hymns III, or Praise for the LORD, or Great Songs of the OT Church, or OT Church Gospel Songs and Hymns? All kidding aside, the songbook of the Jews was—the Psalms (cf. 1 Chron. 16:8-36), written and collected from Moses to Ezra over a period of a thousand years, which were then committed to memory. The English title “Psalms” comes from the Greek word meaning “a sacred song or hymn—a Psalter,” while the Hebrew title, Tehillim, means “praises,” and every Psalm except the 88th contains some form of that fervent action. So when the Jews offered up the sacrifice of praise (cf. Psa. 27:6; Heb. 13:15), they didn’t simply quote the Psalms, they joyfully sang and shouted them, and THAT was the songbook our Lord used when He sang as well.

But this then begs yet another question. Since the Psalms served as the songbook of the Jews, who wrote and authored all of these psalters? Peter says, “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21b), and yet the Holy Spirit received His words from Jesus (cf. John 14:14-17; 16:13-15)!

Here’s ONE lesson I’m learning: Jesus sang from the songbook which He wrote Himself—and one of His favorite subjects was—are you ready for this(?), THANKSGIVING to His Father!  Watch the repetitive refrain in the following Psalms: 

“Therefore I will GIVE THANKS to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles, and sing praises to Your name” (Psa. 18:49).

“Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His, and GIVE THANKS at the remembrance of His holy name” (Psa. 30:4).

“To the end that my glory my sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will GIVE THANKS to You forever” (Psa. 30:12).

“I will GIVE YOU THANKS in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people” (Psa. 35:18).

“Offer to God THANKSGIVING, and pay your vows to the Most High” (Psa. 50:14).

“I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with THANKSGIVING” (Psa. 69:30).

“We GIVE THANKS to You, O God, we GIVE THANKS! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near” (Psa. 75:1).

“So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, will GIVE YOU THANKS forever; we will show forth Your praise to all generations” (Psa. 79:13).

“It is a good thing to GIVE THANKS unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High” (Psa. 92:1).

“Let us come before His presence with THANKSGIVING; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (Psa. 95:2).

“Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous, and GIVE THANKS at the remembrance of His holy name” (Psa. 97:12).

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be THANKFUL to Him, and bless His name” (Psa. 100:4).

“Oh, GIVE THANKS to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psa. 106:1).

“Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the Gentiles, to GIVE THANKS to Your holy name, to triumph in Your praise” (Psa. 106:47).

“Oh, that men would GIVE THANKS TO THE lord FOR His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men” (Psa. 107:8, 15, 31)!

“Oh, GIVE THANKS to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psa. 118:1, 29).

“At midnight I will rise to GIVE THANKS to You, because of Your righteous judgments” (Psa. 119:62).

  • Jesus sang.
  • Jesus sang from the psalmbook which He had written.
  • Jesus offered the praise of thanksgiving to His Father.

In a world where we are tempted to complain and fuss about the current state of affairs, I’m learning from Jesus that I need be more thankful, and one of the best ways to do that is by singing with a heart of zealous gratitude as He did (Heb. 2:12):  “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, GIVING THANKS always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:19-20).

How Much Do You Like the Buffet?

Larry and Jane Hudson are dear friends from the Main Street church of Christ. Years ago they invited me to Sunday dinner following the AM worship assembly. This special couple was celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary at the time, and so they asked me to go along and commemorate the happy occasion.

Our destination? Owensboro, Kentucky and Moonlite Bar-B-Q.

Everybody in this neck of the woods knows about Moonlite. Think casual dining. Think family feel. Think all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet. Underline the word “all.” Hungry guests stand in line with a plate and then help themselves to a smorgasbord of tasty, home-style dishes.

Buffet. Choose what you want. Skip what you don’t want. Go back as many times as you wish. This is gastronomical heaven. I loaded my plate with country favorites—mashed potatoes, pulled pork and green beans, but then skipped the macaroni and cheese, gravy and rolls.

I left the restaurant full as the proverbial tick. Okay, maybe not full—I stopped just one bite shy of gluttony.

The meal was great; the Christian company was even better.

It occurs to me that many preachers treat the Word like a trip to Moonlite. They fill their theological dinnerware with perennial favorites. They “eat” what their doctrinal belly desires (Philippians 3:19), but then pass over those food items that their denomination deems unpalatable. For instance, some heap their plate with faith, but then consciously omit what the Scriptures teach about baptism. They select some of God’s Word, but not the sum of God’s Word. They claim to be “Bible-believing,” but then do a “Moonlite” on those passages that teach the necessity of immersion.

Does the New Testament require baptism? You say, “No.” Look again:

According to Matthew 28:19-20, baptism is involved in my becoming a disciple of Christ.

According to Mark 16:15-16, baptism is something I must engage if I want to be saved.

According to Acts 2:37-38, baptism is something I must undergo in order to be forgiven of my sins.

According to Acts 8:12-13, 38, baptism is something to which I must submit, even if it means changing my religion.

According to Acts 10:48, baptism is something I must obey because it has been commanded.

According to Acts 16:14-15, 33, baptism is something I will yield to—immediately—in order to be faithful to the Lord.

According to Acts 22:16, baptism is something I must do if I desire my past sins to be taken away (cf. Acts 9:6).

According to Romans 6:3-7, baptism is that which makes a difference (slave of sin vs. slave of righteousness) in my life.

According to 1 Corinthians 12:13, baptism is the means by which I enter the body or church (cf. Ephesians 1:22-23).

According to Galatians 3:26-27, baptism is the way that I become a child of God.

According to 1 Peter 3:21, baptism saves.

Do you have your Bible handy? Read through Jeremiah 36. Jeremiah prophesied during the closing days of the southern kingdom of Judah. On one occasion, the prophet received a divine message from God and then had the words written on a scroll (vv. 1-3). This inspired document was later read to king Jehoiakim by Jehudi (vs. 21). When Jehudi read that the kingdom-nation would be overthrown by the Babylonian empire, Jehoiakim decided he couldn’t “stomach” anymore. The arrogant ruler took a scribe’s penknife, cut up the scroll, and then cast it into the fire until it was consumed (vs. 22-24).

Jehoiakim would have liked Moonlite. Eat what you want. Skip what you don’t want. Mashed potatoes “Yes,” dinner rolls “No.” Authoritarian rule, “Yes,” servile bondage “No.” Faith “Yes,” baptism “No.”

Dear reader, the Bible is not a self-serve restaurant. We can’t pick out the parts that we like and then reject or cut out the portions that don’t strike our fancy. We must declare and consume (Jeremiah 15:16) the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27; cf. 2 Timothy 4:2-4), including those passages that teach the necessity of baptism.

Is your preacher offering some of God’s Word, or the sum of God’s Word? “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever” (Psalm 119:160).

Why Can’t You Hurry a Good Pot of Pinto Beans?

I MAKE NO secret of it.

My favorite meal consists of fried potatoes, fried cornbread and home-cooked pinto beans.

Oh yeah, and a slice or two of white onion.

Having become something of a connoisseur of pintos over the years, I’ve made a significant discovery – beans cooked quickly aren’t fit to eat.

It’s true.

Good beans have to soak overnight in salt water, then be boiled, then be left to simmer slowly in a pot on the stove.

We’re talking hours.

That’s why I’m unwilling to eat store bought, canned beans.

Canned bean aren’t worth the aluminum can and paper label that encases them.

Now that I think about it, that’s pretty much what they taste like – aluminum and paper.

Food processing factories leave out the most important ingredient in good beans.

Time.

You can’t hurry a good pot of pinto beans.

Gospel sermons are a lot like good beans because they require time.

They need several hours of mental industry and preparation.

A preacher can’t cook up a lesson late Saturday night before he goes to bed any more than you can microwave a bag of beans.

If a congregation expects a regular diet of well-balanced spiritual meals (John 6:27), then the preacher has to devote large blocks of time to his studies each week.

Sound, Bible-based sermons have to soak, then be boiled, and be allowed to simmer slowly in the recesses of his heart and mind.

Passages have to be explored.

Greek and Hebrew languages have to be researched.

Commentator insights have to be considered.

Relevant illustrations have to be chosen.

Thoughts have to be organized.

Immediate and remote contexts have to be deliberated.

Ancient cultures have to be brought to bear.

And I haven’t even mentioned prayer yet!

Brethren who sometimes maintain that their preacher spends too much time in his study fail to appreciate the true nature of his work.

A preacher is first and foremost of all a thinker.

He has to chew on and digest the Word himself before he can bring it to the table of the Lord (cf. Ezek. 3:1ff) on Sunday.

Paul told Timothy, “Give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine…meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them…take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:13b, 15a, 16).

Are you hungry for real food (1 Pet. 2:2)?

Do you want to be nourished spiritually (1 Tim. 4:6).

Is your diet prompting growth and maturity in the inner man (Heb. 5:12-14)?

Canned beans aren’t fit to eat.

Neither are canned sermons.

Encourage your preacher in his studies.

Insist that he be a diligent student.

Make sure that he has sufficient time behind his desk, with his Bible, books, and computer.

When he’s able to cook for long periods of time, then you’re able to eat well.

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart…” (Jer. 15:16).