My husband embraced me tightly before walking out the door with his bags slung over his shoulder. I trailed behind him as he stopped in the driveway for a hug and photos with our oldest son. My husband, dressed in full uniform, stood with his arm around our little boy, who held a small, black chalkboard sign that read “First Day of First Grade” (it also happened to be his seventh birthday). After photos and final goodbyes, the kids and I watched my husband’s silver pickup truck back out our driveway and pull away. As soon as he was out of sight, an adrenaline rush of anxiety hit me like a shot of caffeine awakening me to the danger he drove toward.
A birthday, the first day of school at a brand new school, and a deployment all in one day was a lot. But this was not our first experience with deployment. In fact, in ten years, I’d lost count of the birthdays and milestones interrupted or missed and the number of goodbyes we’ve said that made us wonder if they’d be the last.
I stood there in my driveway, closed my eyes, and breathed in deeply, slowing my racing heart. I attuned my spirit to the Lord’s dwelling within me. I would live in awareness, not of danger and of the unknown but of the presence of the Lord with me.
Several weeks later, the buzz of my phone woke me just before dawn. The screen showed five missed calls. I immediately knew something was wrong. My phone vibrated again as I held it. I sat up and answered. It was my husband. I exhaled an anxious breath from my lungs. He wanted to reach me before I turned on the TV and saw the news. Through hurried, hushed words that lacked detail, he told me he was safe, but others were not. I felt weak and weepy, but I just listened quietly. He spoke with composure, but I’ve known his voice long enough to hear the emotions he was trying to repress. With forced stoicism, he told me to pray and to tell our two sons that he loved them. The goodbye felt permanent. I slid off our bed onto the floor as tears slid down my cheeks and prayed with my forehead resting against our mattress.
During that deployment, my husband was on a mission that killed one of his friends. Any comfort we tried to offer each other thousands of miles apart in the midst of a traumatic tragedy fell short. And due to his position, I could only confide in a couple of friends. I spent days and nights battling rounds of worry and crying. In the panic, I wanted peace, and in the mourning, I wanted comfort. But I had become a veteran of mental, emotional, and spiritual battles, and I’d learned how to move through them intentionally with the Lord and find endurance through hard seasons. He is the only true source of peace and comfort.
While I could breathe through anxiety and find solace in the empathetic eyes and arms of friends, the only way through the battles I faced was with a surrendered dependence on the Lord. The Lord was with me always, and His presence went with my husband. The Lord’s presence is a provision of peace that sustains us through the scariest moments of life. I had first learned this almost a decade ago when our newborn daughter died, and it has stayed true through every hard season in our lives.
Life doesn’t always work out. People we love will die. And we might find ourselves in harm’s way, intentionally or not, no matter how hard we pray or how much faith we have. But no matter what arrows come by night, we can find consolation in reminding ourselves of who God is, surrendering the moments out of our control to His sovereignty and drawing near to Him in prayer. God’s divine peace dawns in the dark moments of our lives as we depend on Him.
Wherever you are, whether abrupt news has interrupted your peaceful plans, or the vast unknown looms before you, choose to lean on unchanging truth, not on changing circumstances. Pray without ceasing to discover the permanence of the Lord who goes with you, dwells within you, and will never abandon you. May you take heart in the Lord’s presence and live out your full dependence on Him. It’s in our dependence that we discover that His power strengthens us to fight our battles and endure with the peace of His presence.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have what I need.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside quiet waters.
He renews my life;
he leads me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff — they comfort me.
You prepare a table before
me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
as long as I live.
Psalm 23 (CSB)