Darkness is….Vanity

This world will kill you.  For some it is a slow process, a slow death of body and mind.  When you spend your first 10 years of adult life at war this death can overwhelm you.  When you are thrust into a world where bodies are stacked like driftwood.  When you respond to a vehicle bomb that destroys a preschool.  When you enter a nursery for unwanted kids and see the scars on their face from abuse and neglect.  your mind does something.  It dies a little inside.  Each little death of mind and conscience is not the final death because these images follow you.

When you have to scrape the human remains of your friends out of a vehicle because you need to be ready for mission the next day, you become aware that you are now dead inside.  When you watch families destroyed because of your efforts to keep friends from dying you know that this will haunt you.  Death surrounds you.  Death follows you like a shadow.

When returning to the land of the free you are enslaved by death.  You do all you can to feel again, the only emotion that breaks through is anger, anger that powerful emotion that consumes more of you.  No matter what you do the anger is there, the numbness is there.  Drink and be merry for tomorrow you will wake up already dead.  Some pursue drugs or sex to try and feel alive again, if only for a little while.  Nothing in this world works to fix it.

This is my situation, my state of mind.  I would wake up to nightmares and realize that wakefulness is not any better.  I look at my children and see Iraqis carrying their dead bodies from a preschool.  I turn to my wife and see the charred remains of women lying on a street.  Could ending my life save me from this death?

Is there any hope for us dead men?

Who makes dead men alive?  Who can add flesh to dry bones?

Who else has felt this way?

“I am weary from my groaning;

with my tears I dampen my pillow

and drench my bed every night.

My eyes are swollen from grief;

they grow old because of all my enemies.” (Psalm 6:6-7)

“Absolute futility,” says the Teacher.

“Absolute futility. Everything is futile.”

What does a man gain for all his efforts

that he labors at under the sun?

A generation goes and a generation comes,

but the earth remains forever.

The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. (2009). (Ec 1:1–4). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

Could this pain this depression this sorrow lead somewhere?  Is it all vanity?  Or will I gain from this?  We hear the wise teacher say:

24 There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and enjoy  r his work.  I have seen that even this is from God’s hand,  25 because who can eat and who can enjoy life  apart from Him?

The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. (2009). (Ec 2:24–25). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

So how can we enjoy life.

Indeed, if a man lives many years,

let him rejoice in them all,

and let him remember the days of darkness,  since they will be many.

All that comes is futile.

Rejoice, young man, while you are young,

and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth.

And walk in the ways of your heart

and in the sight of your eyes;

but know that for all of these things God will bring you to judgment.

10 Remove sorrow from your heart,

and put away pain from your flesh,

because youth and the prime of life are fleeting.

The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. (2009). (Ec 11:8–10). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

How do we change in the most profound sense?

Augustine wrote: Wherever the soul of man turns, unless towards God, it cleaves to sorrow, even though the things outside God and outside itself to which it cleaves may be things of beauty. (Confessions 4.10.15)

Everything in this life caused more sorrow your life will be full of sorrow no matter what your life situation is.  So how do we turn our hearts toward God?

11 Wisdom is as good as an inheritance

and an advantage to those who see the sun,

12 because wisdom is protection as money is protection,

and the advantage of knowledge

is that wisdom preserves the life of its owner.

13 Consider the work of God,

for who can straighten out

what He has made crooked?

The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. (2009). (Ec 7:11–13). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

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10 thoughts on “Darkness is….Vanity

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  1. Hi Matt, I read your article. I feel so bad inside for all you’ve been through. I knew you had PTSD, but I didn’t know the details. I’m so glad for your present wife, your boys, your Mom, and Marcy. And I know your Dad is watching you from heaven (Heb. 12:1a) and he is proud of you.

    I’m so glad you have a job as a youth pastor. I hope you’re enjoying it. My work with the young people in Thies was a real joy to me, even on the days when I came home from work and found you and Marcy on the roof of my house!

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  2. Matt.
    Powerful words and insight, especially from the word of God. I am thankful for your service and courage in our country’s military. May the Lord continue to bless your life and strengthen you in your battle against PTSD. May He use you mightily to minister to others.
    I am currently discipling a Vietnam Vet in our church. We are going through a study on PTSD called, The Combat Trauma Healing Manual – totally Biblically based. It has been good for him, and good for me to know somewhat of what PTSD guys are going through and how to minister to them.

    Pastor Scott
    First Baptist Church Of Page, AZ (We support your mom as a missionary)

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  3. Matt, we don’t know each other as well as we should–but I am your great aunt Peggy, your grandmother Lucy’s sister. I keep track of you through your Mother’s e-mails. Please know that you and your family are in my prayers. Your Uncle Chuck (my husband) was a Korea and Viet Nam veteran. I cannot say I totally understand what war does to a young person, but I know that when he returned from war we had so much of the same family trauma as I know you and Jessica are going through. You are loved and many prayers are going your way from family and friends. Please hang to your faith and to the Lord and he will pull you through. God bless you and give you the words to say in your upcoming presentation.

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  4. Hi Matt,
    Just want you to know I have prayed for your healing and for your family, and will continue to. Those are the cutest little boys!
    Your mom’s cousin Jeanne

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  5. Matt I just want you to know that when my grandson was little he said that you were his hero and he wanted to be like you well that little boy is now 23 and in prison for selling drugs his dad started him on them he was A student and he was on the honor roll and got a serdifent from the pres, and blew it but now he is studying to be a we
    lder and working in the men’s menerstary
    I still pray for and marcy and Jessie
    love Sally

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  6. Hi Matt, We have prayed for you, Marcy, your dad and mom for many years, because of their email letters. We knew your dad in Italy, we were part of the same short term missionary team. We remember your dad with much fondness. He had a heart of gold and was such a hard worker. He is so proud of you I’m sure and so are we. May God continue to bless you and your darling family on the journey of life. Keep leaning hard on Him! We love you, Wade and Grace Marlow

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