What can we learn about faith from the military? This week I begin a short Woman’s Bible Study Lesson series on faith in the military called Soldiers of Christ. If you have ever served in the military you know there is much to learn about faith from service. Thank for joining me. I hope this series encourages you!
Soldiers of Christ Woman’s Bible Study Lesson Series: The Ruck March
Throughout the 9 years I served in the U.S. Army, ruck marching was a consistent source of irritation for me. Don’t get me wrong. I love to hike. I used to be an avid hiker. But ruck marching is most decidedly not hiking.
Ruck marching is what happens when the military takes something fun and sucks all the joy out of it. Picture this: You embark on a hike with 20 to 30 of your closest friends. You are of varying heights and physical abilities. However, one of the taller and more fit individuals in the group is chosen to set the pace. So, if you are short, you aren’t really hiking. You are running to keep up. Then, there is the uniform. Who cares that it is pushing 90 degrees. You are not only wearing long-sleeved pants and a jacket (you camouflage uniform), but you are also wearing an unwieldy Kevlar helmet and a belt with all kinds of accouterments (water, ammunition pouches, etc…) dangling from it. Your ‘hiking’ clothes are literally dragging you down. But wait, there’s more! On top of all that, you get to not only carry a huge rucksack that weighs about half your body weight, you also get to carry your M-16. You know, just in case you encounter the enemy while you are on your training exercise.
For a small (really, I did used to be small), short, female soldier, ruck marching was pure torture. I jokingly referred to it as ‘ruck running.’ It didn’t matter how well I paced myself. I always fell behind.
Now, ask me if I think ruck marching was a valuable training tool? Absolutely! It was essential for so many reasons: physical conditioning, teamwork, practicing and preparing for a time when I might have to face the enemy for real.
You endure the pain in training so that you are prepared for the test of battle.
Sometimes You Just Can’t Go On
However, what happens when you run out of gas? What happens when you must complete the task, but you just can’t do it on your own? This happened to me more times than I care to admit. However, I always completed the ruck march.
I couldn’t keep up. I tried. Really, I tried. I just couldn’t do it. Sweat poured down my back and my face was as red as a candy apple. My legs were so weak that I could barely stand up by myself. My lungs screamed for more air, or for a break, or both.
However, there was no relief in sight. We were on a 12-mile ruck march and we would not quit walking until we reached our final destination.
All I wanted to do was stop, but stopping was out of the question. I was compelled to keep going.
There was no choice. I had to walk.
Have you ever been there? So exhausted you feel like you just can’t go on?
You are beat down, weary… you would give anything to make the pain and exhaustion just go away. However, relief does not come… at least not when you feel you need it most.
So, you keep going. One foot in front of the other. Eyes down. Grin and bear it.
Sometimes though, sheer determination is not enough. Sometimes you really, honestly- Just. Can’t. Go. On.
It is an impossible situation. You are compelled to keep going, but you have no idea how you will muster the energy, the reserve, to complete the course set before you.
So, how did I finish the course?
I faltered. I couldn’t keep going. I collapsed on the side of the road and undid the belt of the 50 lb. rucksack that had been weighing me down. I had no idea how I would reach the destination. However, I just knew I would not be ruck marching there.
Then, when I had all but given up hope, a fellow soldier stopped and helped me up. He picked up my rucksack and helped me put it back on. Then after a few encouraging words, we set off together, walking side by side. I was obligated to wear the heavy load on my back. I was obligated to put one foot in front of the other. However, my team mate (someone taller and stronger than me) gently lifted the top of the rucksack as he walked beside me so that I would not have to carry to load alone.
It was still my burden to bear, but he alleviated the enormity of it.
I still had to complete the journey myself. However, his companionship encouraged me, motivated me, and sustained me until I could regain strength, resolve, and clarity of purpose.
Isn’t that the way it is with our faith? Have you ever been in the valley? Has your burden ever been too great to bear alone? Have you ever wondered how you would finish the course that was set before you?
Bearing One Another’s Burdens
I think that is why God gives us each other. I think that is why fellowship is such a big deal.
It is great to worship with the saints. To sing praises to God with a loud and might voice. Game nights, chili cook-off, retreats, bake sales, potlucks, baptisms, gospel meetings. These are all the peaks of faith.
But faith is hard. It is certainly not all high peaks. The truth of the matter is there will be valleys.
There will be times when you are stuck on the side of the road.
There will be times when your burden is too great to bear.
There will be times when you are just exhausted.. physically, emotionally, spiritually.
You know you have to keep going, but you have no idea how. You collapse under the weight of it all and pray for relief.
Relief may come eventually, but right now God is urging you to keep walking. The path before you is hard, so hard… but the tests you are facing will only make your faith stronger. So, you have no choice. You are compelled to keep going.
Instead of taking away the burden, God gives you encouragement in the form of a fellow soldier. Maybe this soldier is more experienced. Maybe they are stronger now, because last week, last month, last year… they were the one struggling.
Regardless, God puts them in your path. They are not there to carry your load for you. You have to carry your own load. Also, they aren’t there to walk your path. They have their own path to walk.
But maybe, just maybe, they can help you up, adjust your straps, give you some encouraging words, and gently lift your load for you so that it isn’t so overwhelming… at least for now.
And as you walk together, you will eventually regain your strength. You will begin to stop focusing on how exhausted you are and you will begin to regain your clarity of purpose.
And then, with renewed strength, you and your fellow soldiers, your fellow team mates, will reach your final destination.
You will finish your course. You will finish your race, and you will enter into rest… sweet, sweet rest.
The Ruck March
Thank you for reading and may you have a blessed week,