How do I maintain my Christian resilience in a combat area?

by Chaplain Kevin Russell Archdeacon to the Royal Australian Air Force

by Chaplain Kevin Russell
Archdeacon to the
Royal Australian Air Force

Being personally resilient is about being healthy – and being healthy is more than the absence of illness. Good health is about notions of well-being and resilience – and resilience helps if you are deployed to an area of operations, either in a declared war zone or on a peacekeeping mission.

Being a resilient person means that you are better able to ‘spring back’ from a difficult or traumatic moment. The Macquarie Dictionary defines Resiliency as: 1. Resilient power; elasticity. 2. resilient action: rebound, recoil, 3. power of ready recovery from sickness, depression, or the like; buoyancy; cheerfulness.

There are many things that can happen to you in the abnormal situation of an area of operations. These things can shake or destroy your faith in God. Alternatively, these events could, for some, strengthen their faith. Facing danger and death, and the effects of what some human beings do to others often affect the way we look at the world. We can gain a new sense of what is truly important. However, traumatic events can cause some to feel like they are in a spiritual vacuum.

Our advice is Be prepared, by becoming spiritual fit well before you enter an area of operations. Being spiritually fit is a lifestyle choice. Once in an area of operations, maintain your spiritual fitness as best you can in the circumstances that you find yourself. Never forget the promise that Jesus gave to his disciples ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:20)

What do we mean by being Spiritually Fit?

‘Spirituality’ as a word means different things to different people. Christian resilience, however, depends on developing strong relationships – with our Lord Jesus Christ, and with fellow Christians.

Being spiritual then starts with knowledge – knowledge of both yourself and God.

Get to know your soul – What is important to you? What are those nagging feelings? Is there an underlying irritability or restlessness beneath the surface of your life? Do you sense the presence of God?

Get to know God. Paul in the bible advises that we all should be “transformed by the renewing of [our] minds, so that [we] may discern what is the will of God.” (Romans 12:2) He says that doing this is our spiritual worship (Romans 12:1)

When we use the word ‘Spirituality’ we mean the connections between humans and God. We also use the word ‘Spirituality’ to refer to the meaning of life: or what is truly important in life

Some common expressions of spirituality are:
– A focus on life’s meaning and importance.
– A focus on values, beliefs and ethics.
– An awareness of life beyond yourself.
– A connection between you, others, and God.
– A focus on reflecting on life, and a sense of “deep self” or soul.

What is Spiritual Fitness?

For most people, spiritual fitness means having a set of beliefs and values that guide them and give their life meaning. Spiritually fit people tend to have a stronger self-esteem, better coping skills, and more solid relationships. Spiritual fitness can also bond people through love, forgiveness and compassion.

You gain spiritual fitness by
– Reading the Bible
– Praying
– Meeting with other Christians to talk about God and the Christian Life
– Engaging in Christian Worship.

Some christians add to the depth of their Christian life by
– Fasting
– Going on pilgrimages

What does the Bible say?

The word ‘resilience’ does not appear in the Bible. However, the concept of being strong in the Lord does. Here are some key verses:

– Psalm 31:24 So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord!
– 1 Corinthians 15:58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.
– Romans 1:11 For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord.
– Ephesians 6:10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

You can glean from these bible verses that our God desires that we remain strong in him. There are ideas of intentionality and relationship.


A Patrol in Afghanistan

In an Area of Operations (including a War Zone)

Being in an Area of Operations, especially if that area is a war zone is an abnormal area to be in. Maintaining Christian Resilience is going to take an extra degree of personal intent and discipline. Our practical advice is to remain connected to God, to others and to family and friends. It would be easy not to attend to these relationships, so we would urge you to give special attention to these matters in much the same way as you would give attention to your kit, weapon and other aspects of your daily routine.

– Take time to read your Bible. Your chaplain will be able to give you a light weight version, or an extract from the bible.
– Take time to pray.
– Try and meet with other Christians. Often your Chaplain will run a bible study group or a field chapel service. These won’t be the same as you would have at home, but will be tailored to your circumstance.
– Finally, get to know your chaplain who is there to support you.