(Posted: January 21, 2013)
In our last blog posting, we talked about the Importance of Resilience, highlighting from John 16:33 that “in the world you will have tribulation.” Given the inevitability of body slams in life, the ability to bounce back (resilience) is very important, in fact essential. Now let us discuss relevance of resilience to the military society. How does resilience address the issues of the day, the needs of the hour, in today’s military society? For this blog posting, I will address one issue in particular.
It is hard to ignore the latest media emphasis on the continuing military suicide epidemic. Just this week you may have noted a number of articles on this subject. One story line highlighted a military psychologist who ended his life largely as a result of compassion fatigue. Another story line focuses on the broader picture of the aggregate statistics, with the current Secretary of Defense expressing great alarm over the continuing trends. If you have yet to see this latter article, please go to their website. As well you can use a search engine to identify other sources of information regarding the suicide challenges in our military.
How might faith-based resilience be relevant to this national crisis of suicide?
Here are a few observations:
One can cluster the causal factors of military suicide into four primary groupings:
Isolation (social issues and loneliness, intense grief from loss of a relationship or death of a loved one, survivor guilt, et al),
Stress (anxious and angry, severe chronic stress from family, work, legal, or social problems; combat trauma including PTSD, victim or perpetrator of violent act),
Injury/Illness/Addiction (overwhelmed without healthy coping mechanisms, severe depression or physical/mental injury or illness),
Despair (hopelessness, low self- esteem, inability to craft life alternatives or view different futures).
Now consider the role of Faith, God, Biblical truth, and the Church (in its broadest sense) as antidotes to these causal clusters. Here are a few ideas to stimulate your thinking regarding the relevance of faith to the issues of suicide. For example, “fellowship” within a faith community directly attacks isolation, allowing for secure and loving relationships of trust and mutual healing. The stress and injury/illness/addiction can be mitigated by spiritual focus and disciplines which afford “the peace of God which passes all understanding,” as well as the reality that “God heals the brokenhearted.” The despair and hopelessness are countered by God’s emphasis on hope and encouragement throughout the Scriptures.
While some of these simple antidotes to a “spirit of suicide” are extremely effective and preventative, our current mainstream culture and caring professions do not fully appreciate the relevance of Biblical truth to the military’s mental and behavioral health challenges. Yet the evidence (both in terms of changed lives and evidence based research) is undeniable: Faith makes a difference. Hence, those of you who are well versed in Biblical applications within the military culture (such as addressed in Resilient Warriors, www.ResilienceTrilogy.com, and in the MILT 275/525 resilience courses at Liberty University) have a unique opportunity to shine light into the darkness of despair and suicidal tendencies. You have the opportunity to help bring help, hope, and healing to the military society and beyond.
2 Corinthians 4 can be considered the “Resilience Chapter” of the Bible, along with so many resilience role models throughout the Scriptures. This rich passage states the objective for all of us, particularly our military servants and their families who are living through such challenging times: “We are often troubled (aren’t we all!), but not crushed (broken beyond restoration); sometimes in doubt (I guess so!), but never in despair (without hope); there are many enemies (certainly true in today’s world!), but we are never without a friend (never isolated!); and though badly hurt at times (in the world we will have tribulation!), we are not destroyed (to include through our own hands).” (2 Corinthians 4:8,9, parenthetical comments added) This is the reality of the resilient life which God offers to those who follow His Son Jesus, particularly those who embrace the next verse 2 Corinthians 4:10: “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
The suicide epidemic in our military is very real. Resilience which is fueled by faith is highly relevant. Now I leave it to you to “connect the dots” in your various realms of endeavor in churches, classrooms, corporations, and communities across this nation. Let us bring the best God has to offer to those who need it so desperately. While our nation’s brightest thinkers have not been able to abate the alarming suicide trends (which are predicted to get even worse), our God provides a hope and a future, for all of us!
Respectfully in Christ,
Please take a moment to view a quick presentation on Suicide Realities on the Military.
Download a PDF of this January 2013 blog post.