by Linda Montgomery
Once again, we saw a marriage crumble. Once again, we saw the husband walk out . . . the wife give up. Once again we saw a family disintegrate leaving a legacy of divorce. Once again we thought—if only they had seen the truth and not believed the lies. If only they had hung in there. Understanding that there are extreme conditions which can bring a marriage to an end, we know that there are far too many marriages where the couples just quit for lack of understanding, lack of forgiveness, lack of perspective, lack of trust, lack of hope, or lack of perseverance. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” —1 Corinthians 13:7,8
During our military and ministry life, we have seen marriages fail during deployment because of believing what we call the “Seven Deadly Lies of Deployment.” The following lies are written from the viewpoint of the at-home spouse, but it won’t take too much imagination to figure out how these could affect the deployed spouse as well.
1. The Lie: “I didn’t sign up for this. I’m missing out.”
The Truth: Comparing your life during deployment to your friends or neighbors can be deadly. Looking out the window and seeing your neighbor’s spouse come home every night can make you feel like your life is somehow not valuable or “right.” Equally damaging and frustrating is the habit of comparing your deployment experiences with other military at-home spouses. For example, “My husband has been deployed twice.” “You think that’s bad, my husband has been deployed five times!” Or “I’m stuck at home with these two little kids who scream all the time.” “That’s nothing. . .I’ve got a little one who has never seen his father and two older kids who are causing me all kinds of trouble!” You know. And it can go on and on. We know that there are even couples who compare their hardships—being at-home and being deployed—a sort of “one ups-man-ship.” Truth would remind us that sacrificing for one’s country is a high and noble calling and those who serve at home are equally important! God is sovereign, and His plan for your life is for good and not for evil. The challenges which you are going through right now can be seen as that—challenges. God knows what you are experiencing and will see you through it. There is no need to compare, only to listen and extend compassion to one another with kind words and helpful actions, as Christ would. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14
2. The Lie: “What if _______happens? I’ll never be able to handle that.”
The Truth: God is Faithful. When we forget His past faithfulness and the ways in which He has blessed us, we are on dangerous ground. In her book Calm My Anxious Heart, Linda Dillow discusses the three areas of anxiety: the “if onlys” involve worry about the past, the “whys” involve worry about the present, and the “what ifs” involve worry about the future. As the saying goes, “We do not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future!” As God has been faithful to meet our every need in the past (if we take the time to look back and remember), we know that He is faithful to meet us at any and every point in our life now and in the future. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 and “For the word of the LORD is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.” Psalm 33:4 and “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear . . .” Psalm 46:1,2a
3. The Lie: “My friends all tell me I’m wasting my life. It’s time to move on.”
The Truth: Listening to the wrong voices is an easy mistake to make in this culture of “disposable” relationships—much too easy. Building good relationships takes effort and marriage takes work. Building communication will always take time, but it will be worth it. Sharing information across the miles will not grow your relationship as much as sharing thoughts, feelings, prayer, and spiritual understanding. Develop friendships with those whose marriages have stood the test of time and have grown in their relationships—even during deployments. Put guards around spending time with those who do not have your best interests at heart and do not see the value in building a strong marriage based on commitment to one another. “For better or worse” should not be re-worded “For better or else.” “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure. . .” —Hebrews 13:4
4. The Lie: “No one understands what I’m going through. I’ll put my life on hold, and then start living again when my spouse returns.”
The Truth: Choosing to be isolated during this time is a sure step toward loneliness and depression. We need each other, and asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Cycles of inappropriate behavior, laziness, or apathy can lead to guilt and more of the same. Break the cycle by finding a good church and Bible study. . . finding a good support group . . . finding someone whom you can help. Make sure that you build friendships with those of the same sex (wives with other women; husbands with other men). Going to a member of the opposite sex to discuss your marriage can be a recipe for disaster (unless in a professional counseling setting). While others may not understand completely what you are going through, God does. His presence is real. “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.” —Psalm 139:7-10. Can you read those verses and see how they apply to Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy, Marines, and Army—deployed and family at home?
5. The Lie: “My kids are going to be scarred. I’ll never get back these years.”
The Truth: God can take even the most difficult of circumstances and use it for His good. Never lose hope that God is at work in this circumstance in your children’s lives. Yes, there will be scars, times of loneliness and confusion—but because of God’s purposes, they can be “holy scars.” Something new and strong can intertwine with the wound and cover over the hurt. If a child is taught to endure, to look for the positive in the midst of what appears to be negative, to turn to God in order to thrive when most of the world looks to destructive behaviors in order to survive, to learn to be content in all circumstances, and to take what they are learning in order to help others—then periods of deployment can be times of maturing. That child will grow into an adult with patience and coping skills which others have never developed. Reading biographies of our nation’s founding fathers, missionaries to foreign countries, and past military heroes—and what their families endured during times of separation—will perhaps give you and your children a sense of “context and perspective” which will help point out the purposes in fights for freedom, both personal and national. You’re right, you’ll never get back the years apart . . but with God what can be gained is even more valuable—character. “But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” —Romans 5:4,5
6. The Lie: “He’s always gone. And once he gets home he’ll be getting ready to go again. Deployments are never going to end.”
The Truth: Deployments will end. They will not last forever. Losing perspective and “going global” is one sure way to sabotage right-thinking. I had a wife at Ft. Hood express to me her understanding that this time in their life with so many deployments was a “season”. . . and that she could see ahead to their life out of the military when perhaps they could look back on these stressful years as some of the best years of their marriage because of how they grew when apart. She had perspective—she had faith. “But I trust in You, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hands.” —Psalm 31:14,15a
7. The Lie: “I may as well not even be married. With my spouse gone all the time, my needs are not being met. God wouldn’t want me to be this unhappy.”
The Truth: Selfishness is a marriage-killer. Ignoring the opportunity to see how you are blessed, having a heart of ingratitude, and acting out of resentment, bitterness and cynicism is a demonstration of pride and self-centeredness. Teamwork and oneness require selflessness. Demonstrating a different way to think while living in a deployment culture where despair is often the norm can be a testimony to the grace of God in your life. Perhaps the best way to show that with Jesus Christ you are a new creation is to cultivate love and respect in your marriage. As Gary Thomas, the author of Sacred Marriage, asks, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” People will notice a Christ-centered marriage, and want what you have. People need the Lord—marriages need the Lord—and our time in the military is a perfect gift “for such a time as this” to minister to others whom we would normally never meet nor have the chance to serve. Put your spouse’s needs above your own and you will be amazed at how God will work in your heart and your life. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” —Philippians 2:3,4
This has been a lengthy devotional, but one which, I hope, will cause all of us to discern lies from truth during deployment. Jesus tells us where these lies come from in John 8:44 when He speaks of Satan, “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Be careful of this enemy. Satan would seek to destroy your marriage and your family. Our prayer is that you will be strong in your fight for truth, and as Paul writes in Philippians 1:9-11, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
Dillow, Linda, Calm My Anxious Heart (Colorado Springs, NavPress, 1998).
Thomas, Gary, Sacred Marriage (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2000).
Questions to Share:
1. If you have found yourself believing any of the lies above, take the time now to ask God for forgiveness. Break free from living in the bondage of believing lies. Repent and turn to the freedom of truth.
2. If you have hurt your spouse by believing and voicing lies, take the time now to ask your spouse for forgiveness. Make a list of ways that you are going to change your thinking and look for ways to love and encourage them.
3. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior and as your Lord, take the time now to surrender your heart and life to Him. He loves you and wants you to live an abundant life in the freedom of His mercy and grace.