How the Military Strengthened My Faith in God
The Military Life
My entire life has been connected in one way or another to the military.
I grew up the daughter of a Master Chief in the United States Navy. I joined (albeit shortly) the Army National Guard, and in 2005 I married a Marine.
All these years later, I realize just how much that military life strengthened my faith in Our Heavenly Father.
Each situation, transition, and experience added another brick to the foundation of my belief in God’s almighty power, His endless love, and boundless wisdom.
God is Always There
When my husband and I first married, we were immediately stationed on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.
This sounds like a dream destination, but for us it wasn’t.
We struggled, and there were times it didn’t seem possible for us to make it through together.
Looking back it’s easy to see, God had a plan for us; we just weren’t listening to Him or leaning on Him.
We experienced many different things during our eighteen months there.
Most of it separately.
My husband spent a good portion of the time we were stationed there deployed to Afghanistan–or preparing to deploy.
Because of this, we relied heavily on ourselves, and then expected each other to fill the empty spaces in our lives.
It was rough.
I’d never been away from my family or my friends, and living on an island–basically alone–showed me a weakness in myself I’d never known.
Even though I wasn’t intimate with God during this season of my life, He was there.
Taking the hard moments and using them to help build a strong foundation for my future faith.
The LORD Does it Again
When we left Hawaii we were stationed in Virginia.
We struggled to build our relationship, because neither of us understood the other. We didn’t communicate, and we hurt each other deeply time and time again.
Military Life Isn’t Easy.
Not even for people with strong marriages.
Being young made it harder.
The Marine Corps was a tough employer, and my husband worked long hours and was rarely home.
When he was home he would unwind by playing computer games.
A solitary activity that didn’t include me.
Between the stresses of his job, and our lack of connection I was emotionally exhausted.
After two years, I was ready to call it quits.
Then a Miracle Happened.
I’d been told after the loss of my son I’d likely never carry a child again.
God, however, works miracles all the time; in His time it happened.
With our marriage on rocky ground, we made it through the pregnancy and birth of our eldest.
It wasn’t easy, and we still didn’t turn to God or acknowledge Him in our lives.
We continued to go it on our own, and made each day harder than it needed to be.
Again, the LORD wasn’t deterred.
He used our experiences in this new place to add more bricks to the foundation of my faith.
Deployments, PTSD, and Selfishness
My Husband Deployed to Afghanistan Twice.
The second time he deployed, our eldest was a toddler, and that changed everything. His absence was no longer only affecting me, but was affecting a little girl who didn’t understand why her daddy wasn’t home to tuck her in.
This wasn’t the first time he’d been gone from our lives since her birth, but it was the first time the military had taken him to a war zone.
Those seven months were both a struggle and a blessing.
I just didn’t realize the ‘blessing’ part until years later.
While he was gone I experienced a number of things that would have been so much easier with God actively in my life.
Learning Experience: God is Faithful
My daughter ended up rushed to a children’s hospital when her temperature elevated and the local hospital didn’t feel capable of caring for her. We rode in the ambulance for over an hour, to a hospital in the middle of the desert.
I’d left my car at the local hospital with no idea of how she and I would get home.
Without knowing it at the time, God was there.
Her fever broke and we made it back home.
A problem that seemed insurmountable was solved.
Back to Back Deployments Are Traumatic
When a service member returns from a deployment it takes time for reintegration.
Not only for the member, but for the family he left as well.
We’d spent seven months apart, and during that time both our daughter and I had grown and changed.
He’d changed too.
You can’t deploy somewhere, see death, destruction, and misery, and not be irrevocably changed.
It was really hard to connect.
He and I had never really been great at communicating in the first place, add in the stresses of his returning to a safe place, and the communication was practically non-existent.
God used these struggles too.
I couldn’t see it at the time, and if you’d asked me during those days I would have scoffed at the idea of any god, let alone the God.
Then He Deployed to Okinawa
Within weeks of his return, my husband was back scheduled to deploy again.
Granted, this time it wasn’t to a war-torn country where anyone could be planning to kill you; it still meant he would leave his family for another seven months.
Prior to any deployment, service men train for what might happen while they’re on mission.
This training takes months, and at times feels like a deployment itself.
We never saw him, and when we did he was angry.
I was angry.
Something was going on with him, I knew it and so did our daughter. He didn’t agree.
The week before he deployed to Okinawa, the dam broke. I was tired of seeing my baby girl hurt by her father’s indifference.
It was the first (and only time) my husband has ever sworn at me.
He was in pain, I could see it, but I couldn’t fix it.
I couldn’t help him, and he wasn’t willing to help himself.
My Decision: To Love
The night before he left, I made a choice.
It was time to stop being selfish. To stop placing blame, and just do what I should have done all along.
The same thing Jesus would have done.
I wrapped my arms around him, and loved him.
Regardless of my anger, my confusion, and my own hurt, I felt peace wash over me.
This was the right thing to do.
He wouldn’t leave our home with an angry, bitter wife. He would leave with a wife full of love for her husband.
It’s obvious now what that peace was.
That change wasn’t because I’m a naturally forgiving person.
God had wrapped His arms around me, and said, “trust me”.
Seven months later when my husband returned, he was a different person, and so was I.
This time however, I saw something better in him.
There was a light in him again. The pain wasn’t gone, but it was receding.
God had worked on him too, it seemed.
In the solitude of long runs around Okinawa, God had started to heal my husband.
Military Life: Relocating Time and Again
From the East to the West and Back Again
Our active duty military career continued until 2017.
During those years we moved from Washington State to Hawaii.
From Hawaii to Virginia
Then onto California.
Back to Washington State, just to do it once more– across the Continental United States to Virginia.
We grew our family from that first miracle to four miracles.
How This Helped My Faith
Soon after we had our second child, our eldest son, we were given orders to return to Washington State (where our relationship originally began).
Just like that, a light came on.
Like a program working in the background of your mobile device, God had been working on me.
I’d discovered what had been missing from my life.
For so long I’d been trying to fill the empty space, and nothing had worked.
With the knowledge I was heading back to the home I’d run away from, I surrendered.
God broke through my stubborn pride, and with open arms accepted me: scars, bad choices, confusion, and all.
Through it All, He Remains
Since that summer day in 2013, many things have changed in my life.
I’d be lying if I said my marriage suddenly became perfect, and all our problems magically disappeared once I accepted God back into my life.
That we never struggled.
I’d be lying if I said our lives have been perfect and there hasn’t been a day of worry.
It doesn’t work that way.
There has been pain and loss (My father passed away in January 2015), and there were times of deep fear within this Momma( when the doctor discovered on Mother’s Day 2018 that my youngest daughter has multiple VSDs in her heart)
Being a Christian is hard. Really hard for so many reasons.
Jesus never said it would be easy.
But, I can tell you without a shred of doubt it’s worth it.
He’s worth it.
We’re worth it.
Through all the ups and downs, God continues to strengthen my faith. Not in myself, but in Him.
My family grows, matures, and loves each day, because of His love and righteousness.
And through everything–including the change from active duty military life to reserves–God continues to love me.
When the Marine Corps payment doesn’t come in when its supposed to, and the bank account is too low to cover everything, I trust God.
I know, without fail, God will provide.
Keep praying, I know I will.
Until next time,
P.S. For a book to help you reconnect I suggest: The Five Love Languages Military Edition: The Secret to Love That Lasts