Andrew is an ex-serviceman from Grand Rapids, Michigan
The hectic days of World War II have already been relegated to the misty past in the minds of many of us—veterans as well as those who remained at home. How completely the war and all its implications thrust itself upon us. Everything else seemed minor—and the future—we dared not busy ourselves with thoughts of what it might bring! Those days we were sure would always stand out vividly.
Comparatively speaking, it is but a very short time since the shooting has ceased and this era of so-called peace has been ushered in. The majority of us veterans have returned and have again taken our places in the midst of the sphere of loved ones and of the church. We have forgotten all the anxiety, loneliness and misery of those days: and certainly we would not want to remember many of those experiences.
There are, however, certain spiritual experiences and lessons which we should not only keep in mind, but which should even now profit us in our present everyday life. In the midst of this headlong pace of life we must stop for a moment and ask, “What has been the effect of being in the midst of the impact of God’s judgment—on us as covenant youth?”
To those of us who were in these dreadful things the effect was certainly that we became increasingly concerned about things spiritual—and not only we, but also those who normally professed no religion whatever. But to be spiritual only when we are in a tough spot and then to forget is no different than the reaction of the world. We have personally heard the prayers of the ungodly during concentrated enemy barrages give way to vile cursing when the firing ceased.
But for us as Christian young men—what about those vows we uttered when we were in distress? What about those mountain-top spiritual experiences when God seemed so very near and real?
I shall never forget the night when we joined the mortar squad with which we served in battle. Arriving at dusk at the edge of a Normandy apple orchard we were told to dig in immediately as an enemy air raid was eminent. We envied the other fellows who were already “dug in” as we began to chop frantically in the hard sod. Our fox holes were about six inches deep when the German bombers appeared. They circled and released their brilliant parachute flares—night turned to the brilliance of mid-day. My buddy and I lay exposed without any protection whatever. We were panic-stricken as the bombs came whistling down. If only we had some protection! And then, as if to shame me for putting my trust in a hole in the ground, these words of Psalm 4 verse 8 came to my mind, seeming so appropriate under the circumstances—“I will both lay me down and sleep for Thou Lord only makest me dwell in safety.” Although I did not sleep for the dirt and the shrapnel that was hurtling all about us, the words “Thou Lord only makest me dwell in safety” brought a wondrous inner calm in the midst of all that frightful night of noise and confusion.
I know that many of our veterans can testify of like experiences and learned that God Whom they learned to know at Mother’s knee and of Whose power and greatness they were instructed by the church they had left, was their stay at all times.
And so there were many times in the days ahead when the Lord was to speak the very words we needed to answer our anxious queries. There were Sabbath days—many on end—when we had no opportunity for worship of any kind. When finally we paused in our headlong pace across France and Germany and a Protestant service was announced I rejoiced. We were to worship in a German church in a nearby village. A truck was to pick up the men who wanted to go, at a designated place. Of the company of over one hundred men, of which I was a member, I only appeared and so went to church—the lone passenger on a two and half ton truck. It was experiences like this that made us long so fervently to once more worship in company with all of God’s people back home.
After endless days and months we finally took our places once more among our loved ones and in the sphere of our own church. And now what? Are we much closer in our walk because we have been through great danger and have had these wonderful and terrible experiences? We must confess—because of the old man of sin—that we, with all God’s people, must exclaim with Paul, “Oh, miserable man that I am.” We have become so accustomed to all the blessings with which we are showered. Homes, families, jobs, plans, ambitions—not wrong in themselves—often crowd our lives to the extent that the spiritual aspect is relegated to the background. Out there everything was gone. And we were alone with God; no fleshly encumbrances. How true it is that we must have losses and reverses and things must be taken from us, or we become so engrossed that the nearness of God is not experienced. Not that we desire these reverses—quite the contrary—but they are always for our spiritual welfare.
And so calling the experiences of war to mind, we as veterans can especially see that God never forsakes His own. May we by grace rededicate ourselves to fight as never before and to be good soldiers of the Cross of Christ.
Let us remember the days and months when the exercise of the communion of saints was only a memory and now that we are again in the midst of God’s people, let us not allow a single opportunity to increase our knowledge and strengthen our faith go by! It is by doing this that we by God’s grace strengthen our armor and have the weapons to fight against the evil one for he goeth about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may destroy. We as covenant young people are in the midst of this powerful current of materialism and we must struggle mightily against this sweeping trend. The enemy is strong and we are weak, but even now as we are still in the midst of the noise and confusion of battle, we are already more than conquerors through Him that loved us!