Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Fight

I've finally had some time this spring to sit down and enjoy watching "The Pacific" with my neighbors. For those who know me and have read my first blog and understand my blog's name, you know that I am almost obsessed with World War II history. I've read lots of books, watched a ton of movies, been to many museums, monuments and historically significant sites. I love talking about strategy, the European theatre, the homefront, the Holocaust. However, my knowledge has always been lacking on the Pacific theatre. Perhaps this is because my own grandpa fought at Normandy and I lost relatives in the holocaust so I've just been drawn more to that arena. Whatever the reason, I was really excited when my good friend Joe sent news that HBO was putting out another WWII era miniseries.

The thing that has been most striking to me about what I've learned is the relentless nature of the war in the Pacific. If you watch the series, you see night raids, men losing their minds from the constant pressure, malarial and starvation conditions and an enemy who fought to the death and never considered surrender. You don't hear a lot of grandiose boasting about how quickly and powerfully the Americans will win the war. You mostly see a lot of desperation, pervasive fear and a terror that follows you long after the ending credits roll. It's a long, slow fight against an ever-present and completely mysterious enemy.

I've been thinking lately about the fight for joy and its similarities to war. The idea that there are times in every person's life that he or she will hit that low point. Whether through a set of tragic circumstances, a crisis of faith, a personal failure, there's that moment when most of us will really have to face what it is we believe, what we've let define us and from where we get our strength. I've been on the upswing of one of these low points for the last few months. There are still days when I wake and feel just weighted with sadness. Most of the time I cannot identify the root cause, but I know it's something I have to fight. Satan would like nothing better than for me to mire in self-pity, to embrace my sad face and to treat others cruelly and selfishly as a result of my own despair.

On those days when joy feels elusive, I have to be reminded of the bigger picture, that the war has already been won, even if my present battle feels relentless. That's the difference between fighting for joy and the wars we see on earth. The outcome is already known- we've already been given that greatest victory in what Christ has done and who he has redeemed us to be and so when faced with the enemies of despair, disappointment, sin and self-focus we have to fix our eyes on the Victor.

John Piper says this: "Despair of finding any answer in yourself. I pray that you will cease from all efforts to look inside yourself for the rescue you need. I pray that you will do what only desperate people can do, namely, cast yourself on Christ. He has promised not to turn you away." This past year I couldn't rescue myself. My own crisis of faith precipitated by a personal loss created a situation of desperation and I spent many months just trying to survive, trying to plan or organize myself out of my own chaos and sadness. Couldn't be done.

Today, in the midst of that slow but steady upswing, I am thankful for God who alone can rescue. Who has won the battle against despair and offered joy that we can claim, even on those days when our feelings don't match it and whatever we're hoping for and dreaming of remains elusive. I am also thankful for those people in my life who have jumped into my foxhole with me, unabashedly loving me and pointing me towards that truth when I've had trouble reminding myself, those comrades-in-arms who have loved Christ enough not to give up on me, to ask the hard questions and unwaveringly point me towards the Author and Perfector of my faith.

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