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Death, Our Worst-Case Scenario?

Death, Our Worst-Case Scenario?

by Barrett Craig, U.S. Navy, Chaplain, ACBC Certified Biblical Counselor

Death, Our Worst-Case Scenario?

Our ship was in a precarious situation. We had taken out a high value target, immediately making us the adversary’s focus. Circumstantially, we couldn’t move from our position. We couldn’t get out. We couldn’t move forward or back. We were stuck. We were truly in a kill or be killed situation.

The standoff took about two weeks. We organized ourselves better. I assume the adversary organized themselves better. We knew the fight would be brutal—missiles, hundreds of small boats, gunfire. The adversaries would try to overwhelm us. They would try to fire so much at us we wouldn’t be able to keep up. We would stop a lot of it, but we wouldn’t stop it all. The whole engagement would be much bigger than we could handle. We as a ship would possibly lose in battle, but the Navy would ultimately win the war.

Coming to Terms with Death

I’m not gonna lie. With the prospect of a severe battle, I wept. I wept not because I was scared. I wept because I might never see my wife and kids again. That was the only reason I wept. Behind closed doors, other grown men wept. They also wept over the prospect of never seeing their families again. It was raw. It was sobering. But it was the reality we were all facing.

All of us on ship began gradually coming to terms with the fact that this was it. We had to. There’s not a place you can hide on a ship to keep safe. No place is safe. A missile could hit anywhere. We all knew it. We just had to accept it and put our game faces on.

I thought about the many warriors, many soldiers, many sailors who had been in similar situations. I knew we were not experiencing anything new. I knew I wasn’t experiencing anything other combat veterans hadn’t gone through. It’s a bit of a euphoric moment. You realize your death is part of a larger chess match to take out the king. Most wars play by those rules. There is a calculated loss for a calculated win. I had to do my best to help advance against the enemy so that when I sacrificially died, those behind me could advance even more.

Death as a Christian

As a Christian, I went into this situation a little different than some of the others. I wept different than many of those around me. I wept with hope. I didn’t weep with eternal uncertainty. I wept with infinite assurance: "The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever!" ("A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," Martin Luther).

But thinking of my wife losing her husband, my kids losing their dad, I found myself going in circles. I was ready to die, but was my wife, were my kids ready for that? Then I’d weep again. What a vicious cycle. What a vicious cycle war is. What a vicious cycle life and death are. I had to stay focused.

What is my worst-case scenario? I asked myself. I would die. But was that really my worst- case scenario? As a Christian, is dying in combat my worst-case scenario? I hadn’t thought I would have to process all this in such a short period of time. Our deployment was supposed to be easy. Routine show of force. But there I was asking myself if dying was my worst-case scenario.

What will happen when I die? I asked myself. Truly, what would happen? My whole Christian life hinged on this question. What will happen when I die? I knew the answer, but just talking about it is very different from the actual prospect of experiencing death momentarily. That’s when your faith is truly tested. If I die, will I get to heaven?

Dying by Faith

Do I truly believe God at his word? I asked myself again. Do I believe God has forgiven me? Do I believe he has secured for me everlasting life? These weren’t trivial questions anymore; these were vital inquiries. I needed to know. I couldn’t shy away from death in a moment like this when my fellow sailors were depending on me to make sacrificial choices.

What I experienced next was something I had never experienced before. My heart slowed down. Not my physical heart, but my soul. My soul began resting. Resting. I began slowly experiencing by God’s Spirit a peace in God’s total grip on my life. His Word began flooding my mind: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand" (John 10:27–30). What sweet bliss.

God had me. I had to trust him. But he didn’t just have me. I also had to trust he had my family as well. Whatever might happen to me, I knew the Lord would take care of them (James 1:27). Of course, I wanted to be there for my spouse and kids the duration of their lives. "But God’s plans are not our plans; his ways are not our ways," I reminded myself (Isaiah 55:8). There came a point where I just had to trust God to take care of my loved ones should I perish. It broke my heart even thinking of that, but God is clearly in the business of making beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61). Taking a horrible situation and making it good—even for the family I might leave behind.

Death, Our Best-Case Scenario?

God in his grace also began showing me that my worst-case scenario might also be my best- case scenario. My worst-case scenario might be death, but my best-case scenario would be everlasting life in the presence of God forever. I would get to heaven because God in his grace gave his precious son to sacrificially die in my place. God in Christ forgave me of my sin. There was no condemnation for me before God—not because I somehow deserved God’s favor but because God favored me through his Son (Titus 3:4–7). What amazing grace!

I even began contemplating the apostle Paul’s words when he found himself in a somewhat similar situation. He was imprisoned in Rome, knowing not if he would live or die. He had a fascinating thought exchange with himself, saying, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better" (Philippians 1:21–23).

"To die is gain. . . . To depart and be with Christ . . . that is far better."

As Christians, death isn’t our worst-case scenario. That’s what Paul was saying. In a way, death becomes our best-case scenario. We gain. We get Christ—which is much better. We will see God face-to-face and hear those unimaginably undeserved words, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21). What could ultimately be better?

Conclusion

As is evident, death did not knock on my door that day. In fact, death took none of us that day. I had prayed. We all prayed for God to mercifully ease the tensions of the brewing conflict. There wasn’t a guarantee that would happen. As we all know from history, sometimes God sees fit to allow the battle. That day God did not. Otherwise, I would be enjoying heaven rather than writing these words! We got out of there unscathed. And we praise God for it.

As Christians, we of all people should have the greatest confidence going into battle. An everlasting confidence. We have the confidence that our worst-case scenario will always be turned into our best-case scenario. That’s not bad news—it’s good news. It’s always good news.

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

"Death is swallowed up in victory."
"O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?"

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:51–57)

 

Barrett Craig is a member of the Fallen Service March Advisory Board. 

To learn more about Barrett Craig and the rest of the Advisory Board CLICK HERE
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This entry was posted on Monday, September 14th, 2020 at 1:18 pm and is filed under Featured, Newsletter, Spotlight. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.



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