War: When It Seems like Death Is the Only Winner

The battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest of the First World War. More than one million British, French and German men were wounded or killed. The British Army lost 19,240 men on the first day alone. Death seemed to be the clear winner.

Men and women are still losing their lives in service to their country today. Some are not just soldiers, but our friends. We remember them with thanks, knowing their deaths were for our freedom. But that doesn’t make their parting any easier to cope with. Nor does it make us feel less guilty for surviving.

The War with Death

Fighting against death isn’t always just trying to stay alive. Sometimes it is the struggle we have inside ourselves when we lose a friend in battle. If you have lost someone like this, maybe you’ve thought some of these things:

  • I can’t believe it has happened. What do I do now?
  • Why did they have to die?
  • If only I had been there or acted differently, then maybe they would still be here.
  • Why did they die and not me? How do I carry on serving without them?

Loneliness, helplessness, fear, regret, shock, anger and guilt—even the strongest people are often undone by the pain of losing someone. So how can we grieve for the friends we’ve lost and then keep living our lives? How do we fight this losing battle with death and still stay sane?

There are no easy answers and there is no quick fix. It is important that we grieve for our friends who have died in battle, which is something that can take a long time. Often grief is seen as weak or ‘touchy-feely’. But really it is an honest expression of the pain we are feeling. If we ignore it, it will just chew us up and fill our minds with fear, sadness and guilt, never allowing us to move on from the shock of our loss.

If you have lost someone in war, go and have a chat with your Scripture Reader or Padre. Sharing the pain is an important way of healing.

The other Person you can tell is God. He understands better than you may realise.

What Does God Know about Death?

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son [Jesus], that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Jesus, who was God, suffered a terrible and painful death when He was just a young man in His early thirties. What’s more, He chose it. As Jesus hung on the cross, His suffering was worse than anything we will ever know. Jesus wasn’t just dying a horrible death; He was receiving God’s anger towards us because of our rejection of Him (sin). Jesus paid the price for anything we have ever done wrong so that we could be forgiven by God. Then He did something which can give us real confidence in the face of death. He rose again.

[Jesus] too shared in [our] humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free [us] who all [our] lives were held in slavery by [our] fear of death. —Hebrews 2:14-15 (NIV)

After more than 16 million deaths, WWI ended in victory for the Allies, but peace didn’t last long. Twenty-one years later WWII started, which went on to claim the lives of over 60 million people.

But, thankfully, Jesus’ victory over death is complete! His body is not in a grave; there is no tombstone that marks where He was buried. He is alive! In our wars it may feel like death is the only winner, but in the ultimate war, Jesus is the victor.

Just as He rose from the dead, so shall we if we trust Him. And we will live in heaven forever. He has removed all our wrongs from us, making us acceptable to God and welcomed into His family as His children. When we belong to Jesus, we belong to the One who has beaten death.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me. —Psalm 23: 4

What Next?

God knows what it means to lose someone. He gave up His Son, who went to die for us, so that we need not fear death anymore. This means two things:

  1. We can talk to God about the people we have lost. Jesus promises this to those who feel like they don’t know what to do next: “Come to Me, all you who labour and are [weary], and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
  2. We can confidently trust our eternal futures to Jesus. God has given salvation to us “through our Lord Jesus Christ,who died for us that whether we wake [live] or sleep [die], we should live together with Him” (1 Thess. 5:9-10).

Father God, You know how much I am hurting from the loss of my friend. Please help me to heal from this pain and to grieve fully. Thank You for sending Jesus to die for me. I trust You with my life and look forward to the day when I will enter heaven, never to experience the pain of death again. Thank You for winning this victory for me. Amen