Our son, a Marine, has served two tours in Iraq and recently informed us that he may be sent to Afghanistan. Our son-in-law, a soldier, has served in Afghanistan and faces possible deployment in Iraq.
Besides the concern this raises in my heart as a parent, I am deeply concerned by the violence that average Iraqis face every day.
At times the situation seems overwhelming. What can I, a concerned father and grandfather in Virginia, do to support not only the troops in these war zones but also the citizens of these countries, who yearn for peace?
For many years, I've turned to the Bible for comfort, inspiration, and healing. Often a Bible story or verse has served as a springboard for prayer. This prayer is a desire to understand God better and to be able to help others.
One helpful story is found in II Kings, when the prophet Elisha finds himself surrounded by hostile forces. His servant is terrified, but Elisha prays, "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.... Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha" (II Kings: 6:16, 17).
The vision of God's protection is not an empty promise. Elisha, continuing to trust God, is able to lead the invaders out of the land, finding a peaceful solution.
In stressful situations both in business and my personal life over the last several years, I've followed Elisha's lead and prayed to see God's protection, and peaceful, nonviolent solutions were found.
During the last few weeks, when the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan have seemed increasingly hopeless to me, I've again turned to the Bible for help. I was struck by this simple verse from Psalms: "The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord" (33:5).
I dared in my thinking to substitute "Iraq" for "the earth." To say that "Iraq is full of the goodness of the Lord" seems shocking, as though one were in denial.
Yet as I pondered this biblical promise, it occurred to me that either I believed in God's all-power, declared and promised in the Scripture, or I didn't. If there could be a place devoid of God's power, care, and love – His goodness – then we all are in trouble.
It's all too easy to feel insignificant and powerless in the face of chaos and war. Yet Elisha, who did not allow himself to feel that way, instantly responded to the threat of violence with prayer. Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper, wrote encouragingly of the power of God, divine Love, "Love is especially near in times of hate, and never so near as when one can be just amid lawlessness, and render good for evil" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 277).
The story of Elisha tells me that my contribution, halfway across the planet from these war zones, can be prayerful and consistent. My affirmations of God's power are not theoretical platitudes or airy denials of media reports. They let me glimpse the reality of God's creation, where all is order and harmony.
All heartfelt prayers tend to lift the thought of humanity, to help see that good can be established even in war zones, that our loved ones can be protected, and that all persons of goodwill can find win-win solutions to even the biggest problems.
So, in a very real sense, Iraq and Afghanistan are full of God's goodness. My contribution, I think, is to affirm that, and to expect that this truth carries with it the power to change human consciousness in grand and beneficial ways.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth,
and even for evermore.