If you haven’t been in war, it’s difficult to understand the complex feelings veterans have. The battlefield can leave a soldier grappling with mental conflicts and haunting memories that need to be sorted out. As this week’s cover story reports, those who have been there know the experiences, have been sorting them out, and can be helpful to others.
How do we care for our returning veterans? The first step is making the effort to understand them – and that involves patient listening to their stories with a depth of love that gives them the opportunity to explore the feelings and attitudes they’ve brought back.
When I was an Air Force chaplain, one of the most useful skills I developed was learning to listen with an open heart.
Equally important was the demand to maintain the highest vision of these veterans as the precious children of God. This spiritual fact about them is essential to healing – no matter what they’ve been through, or what they’ve done. A clear understanding of the unconditional love of God for these individuals needs to inform my view of them. I found it determined my ability to help them.
God is the Mind and Love that governs the universe, and is wholly good. Realizing that God’s love for each individual is supreme, undiminished, and unchanged has the effect of renewing, regenerating, and healing. How powerful is God’s love? It’s sufficient to heal any mental challenges a veteran can experience in war.
How do we gain the conviction that God’s help is right at hand and will meet the need? My discipline is to turn to the teaching and life of Christ Jesus and God’s promises in Scripture. The chapter “Prayer” in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy, proclaims and explains the central promise of the Bible this way: “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, – a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love” (p. 1).
I’ve seen the power of God’s love heal veterans of alcoholism, violent behavior, drug addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, and life-threatening wounds and diseases.
This promise from Proverbs often comforts those seeking guidance: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6, New Revised Standard Version).
It’s interesting that this Scripture comforts, because it’s a very demanding passage. The first three phrases are demands upon the reader – then comes the promise.
Helping a veteran begins with taking seriously those three demands in our estimate of the individuals before us. As we do, through patience and love, we can help them begin to trust divine Love, rely on how divine Mind sees them as beloved, good, and even intact. As we acknowledge God’s power and presence, paths to wholeness begin to open, and blessings from Love begin to heal whatever needs healing.