Figures from the National Center for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) indicate that "about 12% to 20% of soldiers and Marines had PTSD after serving in Iraq. About 6% to 11% of soldiers had PTSD after serving in Afghanistan." PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after someone has been through a traumatic event, for example, seeing others killed in battle. Even after a soldier returns to civilian life, a sharp sound may arouse those stressful memories and make him or her feel under attack or out of control.
Soldiers are sometimes reluctant to ask for help because they don't want to be seen as weak. But our prayers can reach out to them, affirming their true strength as the sons and daughters of God. The Old Testament tells of many military encounters, and the life of King David provides some good examples of courage under stress. David is well known for his success against Goliath when he was only a young man, and then he went on to command his own army in battle.
David's psalms sometimes refer to the fear he may have felt in war. But God was always his strong helper and comfort. He wrote: "Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me.... What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee" (Ps. 56:1, 3).
His conviction that God was with him – and with his people – is evident in the book of Psalms and ranges from times when he was feeling low to periods when his certainty of God's love was unshakable. The psalms are a valuable resource for anyone dealing with PTSD or any other mental ailment.
But it's possible to go further – to actually seek healing. Jesus was never a soldier as David was. Yet his consciousness of God's love gave him remarkable spiritual authority – and people felt this. For example, at one point, a centurion – a soldier in the Roman Army – asked Jesus to heal a dearly loved servant who was sick.
Jesus was willing to go to the soldier's house, but the man assured him that wasn't necessary. He said: "Say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it" (Luke 7:7, 8).
It's so interesting that he says, "I also am a man set under authority." To me, these words recognize the authority of Christ that empowered Jesus. Christ is the spiritual evidence that God is ever with us – men, women, children – and that God's love will strengthen us even under times of great stress.
So when everything seems out of control or truly frightening, it's possible to listen to – and for – the authority of Christ. Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper, described Christ as "the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 332). This is how one can differentiate between impulses that come from fear and the presence of Christ.
Prayer for soldiers in combat can affirm their ability to hear and follow Christ's direction. Each individual is actually spiritual, the pure and perfect child of God. No evil thoughts, motives, or memories can contaminate this spiritual perfection.
Divine Love is a powerful presence – on the battlefield and off. This isn't a human emotion, which can become worn down by challenges. It is infinite, divine Love, which can never run dry. Those of us who have soldiers in our families can turn to divine Love for guidance in how to respond to them. And everyone can mentally wash them in Love's light each day, assuring oneself that Love can lift their thoughts and hearts above chaos and stress, and so protect them from mental darkness.
These prayers will help protect them from the potential burden of PTSD, and they can also lead to healing for all who suffer from this ailment, no matter which war they're fighting. Each one deserves nothing less.