Seventy-three percent of casualties in the military since 2006 “occurred under circumstances unrelated to war.” The largest category of those deaths were accidents (with alcohol listed as a factor in 14% of those), followed by self-inflicted wounds, and then illness. With brutal conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq during that time period the percentage of deaths outside of engagement with enemies, the majority of which occurred on US soil, seems staggering.
I can’t help but make a parallel to the lives of the rest of us outside the military. What do I mean? There’s a verse in the Bible that sticks in the craw:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4 NIV)
When we are in the middle of trials (also translated as testing, but also interestingly as temptation), joy is usually the last response. But James makes the case that there is a goal, a purpose and an intention to the trials in front of us. There can be some positive effect to trials if we dwell not on the pain received but on the perseverance achieved.
With the trials we face every day – think of relational conflict or even abuse, economic hardship, real physical pain and disease – many of us fall back on unhealthy or inappropriate responses. In conflict we may seek to justify ourselves in revenge or withdraw in bitterness. When facing physical pain, we may succumb to substances or just give up and atrophy.
All of life is training under fire. We can be led either to fail through temptation, or to perseverance and strength.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12 NIV)
God is for the ones who love Him. He is the strength you need, and the wisdom to see where this present pain can lead.
With Him, trials won’t end in temptation, but turn into training.