by David Sisler
The Vietnam war was one of the most costly experiences in the history of America. I'm not thinking primarily of the cost in dollars, but the cost in lives. And not primarily of the cost in death and suffering, but the cost in confidence.
American's once believed we could conquer any foe--whether domestic or foreign. Whatever the problem, we knew we could roll up our sleeves, go to work, and because God was on our side, we would win. Then a nation of farmers defeated the most technologically advanced nation on earth. Soldiers equipped with the most modern weapons lost to men wearing old automobile tires as shoes.
We lost our confidence. We became bitter, turned inward and started killing each other. Drugs, street gangs, random acts of violence, poverty, homelessness, and worst of all, hopelessness became the colors we flew. The things we were once most proud of, we ignored and many hid their faces in shame.
If you are old enough to remember the turbulent years of the 1970's, you know you have just heard an accurate description of the attitude of a nation. That's why the confidence of Jerry is worthy of note.
Jerry was a returning Vietnam vet. Remember, it was the 70's, not 90's. Returning vets were spit upon. Soldiers who had respected their nation and had served with distinction were despised. Today those men are honored, but it is to our shame as a nation that we once hated them.
Jerry said, "My tour of duty was up. My honorable discharge was in my duffle bag. As I walked out of the airport, a young woman, she couldn't have been over 18, slapped me in the face and called me a child killer. Airport security had to escort me to a taxi because of the reactions of the crowd. I went to a hotel and changed into civilian clothes because they made me feel ashamed of my uniform."
The next several months were very difficult for Jerry. He was continuously turned down for jobs he was overqualified to hold. He began to drift from city to city, always searching for acceptance. Finally, having wandered from the west coast to the midwest, he stopped.
From a $2.00 a day hotel room he wrote to his parents, "I am going to stay here and find something I can get involved in that will give me a new start in life. I am still unemployed, lonely, and disappointed, but I still have hope. I am a Christian and I know that with the Lord's help I can get it all together."
Lisa was 14 years old. She had observed her 14th birthday in reform school. The prospects were good that she would also turn 15 in a youth detention center.
Lisa told a friend, "I was really disappointed when I did not get paroled, but I know the Lord has a reason. You see, I've told Him to do His will. It's hard for me to be away from my family this long. It's hard to be locked up. I was 13 when I was locked up, now I'm almost 15. I need a lot of praying for, but I am trusting God."
That 33-year-old soldier who can't get a job, whose only constant companion is discouragement said, "I have hope." What gave him hope?
That 14-year-old girl who is behind bars, who did not get a parole, and has been a Christian for less than one year said, "According to God's will, the parole board did right in keeping me here. I am trusting God." What caused her to trust?
Both Jerry and Lisa were experiencing the truth of an often overlooked statement from the Apostle Paul to the Colossian Christians: "Jesus is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." Jesus is the cohesive force that holds the world together and keeps God's people in their place.
If you believe that, no matter what difficulty you are experiencing you can have the confidence that Jesus can put it all together and have it make sense according to His will, not yours. Jesus refuses to allow your life to be a shambles. He will put it all together for you if you will only trust Him.
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 4/2/94
Copyright 1994 by David Sisler
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