With the sudden fall of the government in Afghanistan, a fundamental and troubling question has come to mind for many veterans of the United States military’s role in that country and in Iraq: Can all the good we accomplished in our missions there be wasted or lost? The temptation to be angry, to despair, or to be frustrated can feel overwhelming at times.
I’ve found that the Word of God can help us navigate these waters. The Bible has many accounts of individuals dealing with similar questions. For example, at one point the prophet Elijah became so dejected and despondent in his ministry that he requested of God to die in humiliation because he thought all his hard work in service of God had been wasted. But Elijah was given compelling proof of the divine power. God then told him that there were thousands who remained servants of God, so his good work wasn’t in vain (see I Kings 19). In fact, the legacy of that good continues to this day, blessing countless people.
Whatever our ministry or profession, the fundamental understanding of the origin and continuity of good is key to healing any sense of having wasted one’s effort. Are human beings the source and continuity of good, or is God?
The discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes of God, “The Scriptures name God as good, and the Saxon term for God is also good. From this premise comes the logical conclusion that God is naturally and divinely infinite good” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 26).
Because God is infinite, wholly good, and the only source of good, good is actually ever present. All that is genuinely good is as eternal as its Maker, and therefore cannot be wasted or lost.
And being of God, Spirit, such good is therefore spiritual, and can’t be bounded by time or space. Therefore, the good that God bestowed years or millennia ago is still blessing all of God’s creation today because it is still present – and still powerful. There can never be a place or a time when and where infinite good, God, is not fully present and active.
A deeper understanding of these divine truths provided great guidance and protection to me during my three military deployments to Iraq years ago. For example, during my first deployment I did a lot of work with local Iraqi elected officials and tribal leaders to help rebuild their communities. Projects included building various structures, establishing agricultural co-ops in rural areas, and creating job programs for local youth. Yet the good accomplished in our work wasn’t primarily about the physical outcomes. It was about the integrity, goodness, and honor that were demonstrated. And since its source is God, it can never be taken away from us.
That’s true for Iraq and Afghanistan, too. Whether goodness was expressed through military or non-military personnel, locals or foreigners, it can never be lost any more than rain can go back into the sky once it has fallen and watered the ground! The ground usually needs more rain at another time, but the rain that fell did its job. It is always right to do good, to express the love of divine Love.
I feel that Christ Jesus spoke to this point when he said in his Sermon on the Mount, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
When we think good originates in human beings instead of in God, then we are laying up treasures where “moth and rust doth corrupt,” and we won’t be able to understand how and why the good will endure. But when we recognize that God alone is the source of good and that everyone, as God’s child, reflects that good, then our treasures of good accomplished are safely in heaven – in the present and eternal consciousness of God’s goodness – where nothing can corrupt or steal them. This applies to everyone, everywhere.
Recognizing this helps uncover and stem thoughts like dismay, frustration, or anger that keep us from seeing God’s ever-good activity, empowering us to have an immediate, continual, and enduring impact for good, wherever we may be.