The Sorrow of War
“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. -Ecclesiastes 7:2
Memorial Day is about sorrows, especially for those who have reason to visit the cemetery where their loved one’s remains lay. It surely has become a day for feasting, picnics and cookouts, family gatherings, and time away from work. But the real reason for this holiday is to remember and give thanks; remember those who gave “the last full measure of devotion, and be thankful to and for them for the genuine blessings secured with their ultimate sacrifice.
Not everyone has experienced war on the battlefield. It contains experiences you would not covet or want to remember. “War is hell! is an all too true adage. When you are so fortunate to escape death in battle, you have many complex feelings. You certainly feel relief, but you also have questions: Why not me? Why them, since they died right beside me? The Angel of Death, or the hand of Providence was seemingly arbitrary in choosing my buddies instead of me. But the Christian soldier knows better. It was a purposeful God who marked those called to death, just as He put His hand on those chosen to survive to live another day. I have lived 50 years longer now than my comrades whose blood was spilled in the soil of Vietnam, and I have lived 22 years longer now than my wife and co-parent who succumbed to cancer when her children had not yet been married or borne her grandchildren.
Life and death questions and selections lie in the hand of God for us all. The reasons remain hidden from us in His all-knowing and manifest wisdom. Faith must accept and rejoice that such a God is good. But He also intends for us to grieve over the ultimate cost and great sacrifices of the battlefields of freedom. They keep us, for a time, from those we love; they take from us a parent while we are still at a very young age; they separate us from the love of our life; they rob us of an adult child’s companionship into old age. The sorrows of war run deep.
These sorrows should produce a reverence for the day so determined for a thankful remembrance. Genuinely experienced, those sorrows should evoke a contemplation in all of us which is valuable for the soul. Those sorrows are required fuel for feeding a fire of gratitude inside of you. Gratefulness is a necessary ingredient of character. Without it, character either erodes or never grows. A man, woman, or child of character is one who is grateful to God, of first priority, and to others around them of second. It is a gratefulness which always finds expression in one form or another; visibly, verbally, thoughtfully, magnanimously to God and to those who have done much or little for you.
Memorial Day is but a reminder of what every day should be about: gratitude! Sorrows are most powerful, as Ecclesiastes 7:1-6 expresses so poignantly, in producing a heart of thanksgiving. Memorial Day should be a day when sorrows are experienced and felt by you as it causes you to be more thankful for what is yours, and it should never be taken for granted.
“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’
(1st verse of Horatio Spafford’s hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul, 1873)
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