United States Marines undergo some of the toughest training in the world, starting with boot camp. But I did not attend a real boot camp. So I chose the First Marine Division, where I was assigned to the Third Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. For the first year or so, I found that the experience was not so tough after all. Even after we deployed to Iraq in the fall of 2004, life was relatively comfortable.
But everything changed on November 9, 2004. While engaged in combat operations in Iraq, I was seriously wounded by an enemy explosive device. The force of the explosion and the resulting shrapnel caused multiple injuries to my legs. Instantaneously, my life became difficult. I underwent months of hospitalization, numerous surgeries, and arduous physical therapy. Setbacks, complications, and disappointments have made recovery seem incredibly slow. I still face months, if not years, of rehabilitation, perhaps more surgeries, and a final outcome that is uncertain from the human perspective.
However, I have already made great progress. Physicians can treat, but only the Great Physician heals. Praise the Lord! The sinner in me wishes that I could get a new body. I will! "For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed" (1 Cor. 15:52). My present body will continue to deteriorate, with or without the aid of explosives. I need to hold less tightly to the things of this world, and instead lay up treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:20).
I have often asked myself why this calamity happened to me. But when I do that, I also have to ask why God chose me to be his son. My mind has gone through the "what ifs," trying to determine if I could have avoided the injury. The inescapable conclusion is no. There is a purpose to my suffering. I am convinced that the enemy's evil intent was all part of the Lord's plan for me. It is a difficult fact to accept, but true. "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good" (Rom. 8:28).
Because he loves me, the Lord will not allow me to lead a soft, easy life. I especially cannot continue to comfortably dwell in my sins and live a life centered around myself. So I am going through boot camp-God's super special, spiritual boot camp, tailored for me-complete with trials and tribulations! Why? God "will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver" (Mal. 3:3). Like gold, we Christians must be sanctified and refined by spiritual fire, because he "who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). Guaranteed!
And as I go through this boot camp, I am also comforted by the fact that the Lord will never leave or forsake me. "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39).
The author is a member of Sovereign Grace OPC in Moreno Valley, Calif. Reprinted from New Horizons, July 2005.