Simply put, as a result of my participation in the Iraq War, I learned that life is short; therefore, I am to live my life for the glory of God and the good of others. I now understand the brevity of life and the fact that the life we live is a gift from God that should never be taken for granted. I learned to appreciate the little things in life, and, at the same time, I learned to never sweat the small stuff.
Nick Swarthout is one of my best friends and fellow Iraq War Veteran. He served three combat tours to Iraq in 2004, 2006, and 2007. This is what he had to say about the brevity of life in an e-mail interview on September 29, 2011, “I firmly believe God used all of my combat experience to demonstrate to me that life is fragile, and can be taken away from me at any time. Through the experiences I have, I have gained a deeper understanding of how I ought to not take my life for granted, and I need to ensure I use it for His glory and not my own.”
Colonel (ret) David Eberly is a Persian Gulf War Veteran whose combat awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart. He has written a book entitled, “Faith Beyond Belief: A Journey to Freedom”. This book describes the horrors he experienced during the forty-three days he was a prisoner of war in Baghdad. This is what he wrote after surviving such an experience, “As a result of this experience, I am not afraid of dying — I am afraid of not appreciating living. The greatest struggle in our busy lives is to take time to be holy — to put the Lord first. We cannot know, or even imagine the challenges and the opportunities that God will give us each day. We must simply have faith; He is with us always. Our shepherd is on guard.” Colonel Eberly’s statement proves to us that there are some lessons in war that are timeless, namely, life is short and should be lived for the glory of God and the good of others…it was true in the Persian Gulf War, it was true in the Iraq War, and it will continue to be true in wars to come.
Life becomes so real when you realize that life is so short. It’s as if death makes life real. When death became part of my wartime experience, everything changed. I realized that life is truly a gift…a gift to be enjoyed for only a short time…a gift to be spent for the glory of God…and a gift to be used for the good of others. Friends, don’t squander the gift of life that has been given to you. James 4:14 is so very clear…”Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” So ask yourself…how are you savoring and spending the vapor that is your life?