How do I deal with the guilt and anxiety of war? I helped kill and witnessed death first hand. I flew combat missions in Afghanistan and was shot at and shot up. I placed soldiers on the ground, many of whom were killed. I agreed to this path. I suffer from a great case of PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, formerly termed "Shell Shock"] which has destroyed my life. I am seen by the VA weekly. I live with great depression and am scared a lot of the time. My belief in God is shaken and I am left with questions.
None of us at Probe have any combat experience, so I turned to a dear friend who has, Warren Gallion, and asked him how he would answer you. Below is his letter.
My husband Ray read your question at our staff devotions. People sat there stunned, not knowing how in the world to answer. Then Ray read Warren's letter. I wept; someone else murmured, "What a masterpiece. . . " It was a powerful example of the truth in 2 Cor. 1:4, which assures us that God comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
All of us at Probe want you to know we thank you, bless you, and honor you for serving our country and fighting the good fight against evil in Afghanistan.
Probe Ministries Webservant
As Christians we have been taught from a very early age that "Thou shalt not kill" and to "Love your enemy." In 1969 I found myself trying to reconcile how I could be the best Vietnam Infantry soldier I could be and still "Love all the people in the world."
It was very helpful for me to learn that God has different rules for governments than he does for individuals. The Bible tells us we live in a World where there will always be war and rumors of war. It is the responsibility of governments not individuals to resolve war. The government is authorized with God's blessing to wage war, declare a death penalty or even say it is OK to kill an unborn child. God in his own time will judge the country concerning whether we are making the right decisions in each of these areas.
As a soldier your job is to follow orders. Although you may have to make many decisions, even deadly decisions within the scope of your mission, you need to realize that your commanders and the country that sent you on the mission will be judged if your mission was ungodly. If you did your mission to the best of your ability you should not feel guilty for being a part of the mission.
As an individual it would be wrong to consider murder or killing as a solution to any problem. Even in war it is possible for an individual to step outside their mission and decide on their own to do something ungodly. However, it sounds like the Afghanistan experiences you described were all within the scope of your mission.
If you are dealing with guilt you need to ask yourself, "Were the actions that I feel guilty about within the scope of my mission?" If the answer is No, I acted outside the scope of my mission, and you are already a Christian then you need to confess those sins to God and ask for forgiveness and then do a little Bible study on the words forgiveness and grace. God can and does forgive with amazing grace.
If the answer is Yes, I acted in the scope of my mission, you need to turn loose of the personal guilt and allow God to use your experiences to mature you and to minister to others. God sometimes allows you to experience bad things so he can prove to you he is in control and he has a reason for keeping you around.
War is a very hard thing to experience. As Christians we sometimes think we shouldn't have to deal with hard things. Let me share a verse with you that helps me. "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 it work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1: 2-4)
September 11, 2001 was a tragic day in our country's history. Having experienced war first hand myself, it is not an experience I would wish on anyone. However, I was in agreement with our governments decision to send men and women like yourself to fight. Although I did not know your name, I prayed for you while you were there. Allow me to pray for you now.
Dear God, I lift up our brother ______ to you today. Just as your Son willingly placed His life between me and the eternal death my sins deserved, we honor men like ______ that willingly placed his own life between us and the dangers our world faces. Help ______ grasp that You are a great God and You do not fear any of his questions. Lord, we ask that You take away any guilt, fear, depression and anxiety that ______ may feel from the trials he has experienced and turn it into the perseverance You promised, and help ______ to feel mature and complete so he is not lacking anything. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
______, I want to personally thank you for your service. You mentioned you were a pilot and you placed men on the ground. In Vietnam it was helicopter pilots that placed us on the ground. When things got really hot it was normally some crazy pilot that had to do something really stupid to save our hide. I try to never miss an opportunity to Thank a Pilot.
Sgt Warren Gallion 4th Infantry Vietnam 1969
© 2007 Probe Ministries
About the Author
Sue Bohlin is an associate speaker with Probe Ministries. She attended the University of Illinois, and has been a Bible teacher and conference speaker for over 35 years. She is a frequent speaker for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women's Connections), and serves on the board and as a small group leader of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered outreach to those dealing with unwanted homosexuality. Sue is on the Bible.org Women's Leadership Team and is a regular contributor to Bible.org's Tapestry Blog. She is also a professional calligrapher and the webmistress for Probe Ministries; but most importantly, she is the wife of Dr. Ray Bohlin and the mother of their two grown sons. Her personal website is suebohlin.com.
What is Probe?
Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.
Further information about Probe's materials and ministry may be obtained by contacting us at:
2001 W. Plano Parkway, Suite 2000
Plano TX 75075