“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble (Psalm 59:16).”
Last night in preparation for writing about D-Day, what historian Stephen Ambrose called the pivotal point of the 20th century, I watched the first 25 minutes of the movie “Saving Private Ryan”.
The movie’s scenes of combat on Omaha Beach in Normandy are said to be the most accurate portrayal of that event ever made. The battle was filled with chaos, carnage, blood, sweat and tears. It was brutal, and director Stephen Spielberg got it right.
Tom Hanks, the key actor in this film, said that the actors and Spielberg could recreate how the battle looked, but not how the soldiers felt. “That’s something someone like me will never know,” he said.
We may never understand what the men at Omaha Beach felt, but we surely know how we feel when our lives seem just as confused as combat. We feel like we are in a war, and indeed we are, a spiritual one.
Job felt like he was at war with God. In his mind, it was God who had taken away his health and destroyed his family (Job 16:7,8). What he didn’t realize was that he was a soldier in a bigger conflict between God and Satan (Job 1:6-12).
Job did grasp one thing: he had an advocate in heaven, an intercessor (Job 16:19-21). The men on Omaha Beach realized this as well. In “Saving Private Ryan”. they are seen praying and kissing crucifixes durng the battle, pleading for God’s assistance to survive, and even kill their enemy.
One of the actual soldiers who parachuted behind enemy lines on D-Day told of using his rosary on the flight to his drop point. The man next to him asked him if he could borrow it. The soldier told him,”No. I’m busy using it.” He said he used the prayer beads all the way over the English Channel.
We instinctively know that we should pray when times are tough. There is something in us that tells us to turn to God. When America was attacked on September 11, 2001, the churches were filled, for a time. People who normally wouldn’t darken the door of a chapel scrambled to find God.
Believers in Jesus Christ know that they are in a war whether times or sunny or not. When things do get dicey for us, we understand that part of the reason for the difficulties is that there is an Evil One out there trying to make our lives miserable, even destroy us (I Peter 5:8).
However, we should focus on Jesus, not the devil, when life seems like a World War II battle. One seminary professor of mine used to say,”For every look you give to Satan, give ten to God”.
We are on the winning side, and our general is Jesus. As Stephen Spielberg accurately portrayed the battle of Omaha Beach, Martin Luther correctly wrote about the nature of spiritual warfare in his hymn “A Mighty Fortess is Our God”:
Jesus won the war on the Cross. However, while the war is over, the battles in this life aren’t. As the men landing on Omaha Beach had to get out of their landing crafts and struggle up the beach and engage the enemy, we also have to take the fight to Satan.
In “Saving Private Ryan”, one of the soldiers gathered some of the frightened men who were stuck on the beach. He knew if they stayed in place they would be killed. The only way to survive, and win, was to get off the beach, face the hellacious fire, and take the fight to the enemy. This soldier told his men,”Get on my behind and follow me.”
It’s Jesus who is leading the charge in our spiritual fight. We ought to get behind Him and follow, praying to Him all the way.