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Destroying Strongholds

November 20, 2015 by

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:3–4).

The sniper’s bullet shattered his wrist and forearm. Exposed to incoming fire, he would never risk the safety of another fellow medic by calling for help, so Pfc. Desmond Doss bound a nearby rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint. It was the closest he’d come to using a weapon; he was a conscientious objector. His legs already damaged by a grenade, he crawled 300 yards to an aid station.

A close friend of mine – himself a veteran of the Vietnam War – introduced me to Doss’s story some years ago. A Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Doss is credited with the rescue of seventy-five men from a ridge top in Okinawa, armed only with the weapon of prayer. Selfless and valiant, a comrade would later say of him: “What most impressed me was that death never scared him. What scared him was that others would not know Jesus.”

President Harry Truman awarding the Medal of Honor on conscientious objector Desmond Doss
Desmond Doss recieving the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman

Isn’t every man and woman around us in a war? Ours may be on a different field of combat than Doss; the enemy, the trenches, and the barbed wire manifest themselves in different configurations. We may be ambushed by the hidden machine gun of a sudden illness or feel pinned down by the shell bursts of a troubled mind. The sniper of economic frailty may pitilessly stalk us, or leave us trapped in the death grip of a hand-to-hand skirmish for daily survival. And there are those who survive life’s struggles only to experience abandonment in old age.

The Scottish theologian John Watson wrote,

This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavoring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle; we are bound not to irritate him, nor press hardly upon him nor help his lower self. We must feel as a brother to the man beside us….

Armed with this greater understanding we will perceive that even the toughest fighters occasionally need a good Samaritan.

November brings us Veterans Day. Many vets battle disability, employment difficulties, and unsatisfactory access to healthcare. Many feel discarded; the Department of Veterans Affairs tells us an average of twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day.

We might think we can’t make a difference, but we do have the ability to reach out. Dr. Keita Franklin, director of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, says, “One smile, one conversation, one comment, one caring gesture toward somebody at risk can make a difference in their experience and perhaps instill hope and get them to help. . .”

A Marine comforting another Marine who is weeping after witnessing the death of a buddy on an Okinawa hillside.
A Marine comforting a fellow Marine who has just witnessed the death of a buddy on Okinawa

Where there’s an opportunity, we must care and listen. Through faith we have the added assurance of the power of prayer. This rope to safety – prayer – is something we can offer a friend in crisis, and it’s a lifesaving petition for the unspoken suffering we notice in a stranger. And there is the hopeful prayer we can say for those the world over who have lost all courage and have no one to pray on their behalf.

In May 1945, seventy-five critically wounded men lay on a ridge top in Okinawa. With no concern for himself, Desmond Doss singlehandedly carried them, one by one, through enemy fire to safety. “Lord, help me get one more. Just one more.”

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About the author

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Jason Landsel

Jason lives in upstate New York at the Woodcrest Bruderhof.

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