Awhile back I wrote about the book Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson (Here) . At the time I’d just begun it. This morning I finished it. That I took as long as I did is no reflection on the book, only on the level of life distractions I’ve been faced with. And actually I think I’ve read it about three times altogether now, given my propensity for skipping ahead and then returning to read through more slowly. I don’t often recommend books, but this is one I do. Especially if you know anything about the angelic conflict, the purpose of suffering, the reason we’re here, how to glorify God… because this book presents a vivid, moving and compelling visual/experiential illustration of what the Christian life is about.
It is not a religious book, though Luttrell does believe in God and it’s very clear that God preserved his life in the mountains of Afghanistan. But the similarities between our lives in training as Christians and then executing that training as we begin to come under more and more pressure from the enemy and the training and deployment of Navy SEALS were amazingly apt. I have turned over the corners of over thirty pages of sections I wanted to quote or reflect upon.
It was just another example of how amazingly sharp you need to be in order to wear the SEAL Trident. Over and over during training, we were told never to be complacent, reminded constantly of the sheer cunning and unpredictability of our terrorist enemy, of the necessity for total vigilance at all times, of the endless need to watch out for our teammates….
He spends quite a bit of time relating his experiences as he went through the training to be a SEAL before going on to describe the events of Operation Redwing, from which only he survived. The training was absolutely fascinating and in that especially I could relate. Often they would be put uncomfortable, painful situations, like being in cold water up their necks for precisely the amount of time their instructors knew they could bear before expiring.
They were also deliberatedlytreated unjustly. After spending the afternoon cleaning his room, getting everything shining and spotless, a trainee would stand agog as the instructor come to inspect his work would proceed to drop sand on the gleaming floor, tear up the crisply made bed, pull out all the neatly packed-drawers and dump their contents on the floor, all the while yelling at the trainee for being a slob and a lazy bum (well, not those words precisely) and then commanding him to “get wet and sandy.” Which meant to go out fully clothed (in your dress uniform even) jump into the cold Pacific off Coronado island and then roll about in the sand.
I read that part about the time Pastor was talking about how as Christians we are going to receive unjust treatment. It’s a part of suffering for blessing. It’s something God doesn’t just “allow” but in a sense chooses and at times even orchestrates. (As He used Pharaoh). Reading that the Navy SEAL instructors were deliberately unjust was a shock. Here’s a quote:
I asked [Instructor] Reno about this weeks later, and he told me, “Marcus, the body can take damn near anything. It’s the mind that needs training. The question that guy was being asked involved mental strength. Can you handle such injustice? Can you cope with that kind of unfairness, that much of a setback? And still come back with your jaw set, still determined, swearing to God you will never quit? That’s what we’re looking for.”
And that’s what God’s looking for. Not perfection. But plugging. Never giving up on the plan. No matter what hits you, you just keep on going. Because Satan knows just as well as those SEAL instructors that injustice is really, really hard to swallow. It ignites all manner of sins from anger to resentment to vengeance, from sulking to self-pity to giving up. He knows that if he comes at God’s people with injustice a certain number of them are going to throw in the towel. Or, to keep with the SEAL theme, to ring the bell that signalled withdrawal.
To fight in God’s army you have to be able to handle injustice. And pain.
Here’s another quote:
I remember [the instructor] said flatly, “You’re going to hurt while you’re here. That’s our job, to induce pain; not permanent injury, of course, but we need to make you hurt. That’s a big part of becoming a SEAL. We need proof you can take the punishment. And the way out of that is mental… Don’t buckle under to the hurt, rev up your spirit and your motivation, attack the courses. Tell ourself precisely how much you want to be here.”
Of course in our case, it doesn’t depend on us. We can bear the pain and the injustice through the power that God has given us. The power of His word and of His Spirit. But it is primarily born through the mind. The attitude we bring to the suffering is what determines success or failure. Suffering is given to us so we can learn obedience, as Jesus did, and later so that we might glorify God while enduring it. If we get subjective about it, we will fail. If we step back and recognize it as something God has allowed and then ask ourselves what He might be intending fur us to learn from it, we’ll go a long way toward maintaining that proper mental attitude.
And this was just from the first two weeks of the SEAL training. Before they even got to BUD/s and well before they had to face the dreaded Hell Week…
…to be continued.