United States (MNN) – We shared earlier this month that 20 veterans take their lives every day. As National Suicide Prevention Month winds down, we wanted to bring to attention again the resources found at Set Free Ministries.
Dean Vander Mey of Set Free says for many veterans, transitioning back to domestic life reveals a new type of battle.
“When I think of combat warriors coming back—they’ve never been taught how to come back and win this battle for the mind. They were taught how to kill and to be the warriors that they were. They come back home, they’re released from their duties, they lose their band of brothers, they lose their mission, their meaning and purpose, and they’re left with all the horrors of war.”
(Photo courtesy of Warriors Set Free)
This new battle, he explains, takes place in the mind and heart as soldiers deal with the emotional and mental baggage they’ve brought back.
The name we’ve applied to this situation has changed over the years from shell-shock to battle fatigue to PTSD, but it’s something we’ve known about for a while. Because of the shockingly high suicide rate among veterans in the United States, there is a greater awareness of the problem, and a push to destigmatize mental illness. However, as a whole, there is little recognition of the spiritual battle that is being waged—not even within the Church.
Set Free Ministries recognizes that mental battles are usually paired with a spiritual reality. There is something going on in the heart that, left undealt with, will continue to plague the person harboring it. These are the hidden things of the heart and Vander Mey says, “We the Church of Jesus Christ have all the answers to deal with this dilemma.”
It’s important to recognize that the enemy, Satan, uses these things against us. He is most successful when he can keep the root of our struggles hidden, or have us deny them altogether. We see this happening all throughout biblical history, beginning in the garden.
It is here that we first see how the enemy isolates mankind, causes them to blame others, and makes them feel like they can’t approach God with their problems. But in this isolation, people are more likely to make poor decisions that further destroy relationships.
Later on in the Old Testament, we read of King David’s most infamous mistakes: taking another man’s wife and making sure that man was killed in battle. It was an extreme burden of guilt that most likely resulted in the writing of Psalm 38.
Vander Mey says, “He turns into a psychosomatic mess. And then read Psalm 51 and you watch a man who’s set free and forgiven. And it’s only because Nathan had the courage to go confront that guy and say, ‘we’re going to deal with the junk in your trunk, we’re going to deal with the lies, we’re going to deal with what’s hidden right now.”
Psalm 51, the well-known repentance psalm, is a clear picture that God can redeem any situation, no matter how horrible.
Maybe it’s not poor decisions that are plaguing you, but the inability to let something go. Maybe, like Kevin Kruk, you are holding on to guilt that isn’t really yours. Maybe there is someone you blame for a hardship that took place. Bitterness and anger are very difficult burdens to get rid of, and they can destroy a life.
Vander Mey says these two conditions are common among veterans.
“So we have to deal with these guys who come back hurt, angry, bitter. Angry at commanders that made poor decisions that led them into harm’s way. Angry at the enemy that did horrible atrocities to them and their men. There’s a lot of anger and a lot of hurt.”
As we’ve mentioned in the past, a lack of forgiveness seems to be the most common burden of people struggling with depression, suicide, or addiction.
“You take a vet who’s angry and bitter – he doesn’t know that an angry man cannot see he’s lost his way. That’s in Scripture. He doesn’t know that. He doesn’t know that if you let the sun go down on your anger, you give the devil a foothold. Nobody told him that. He doesn’t know that when he drinks, he can’t be vigilant, and if he can’t be vigilant, the adversary, the devil, is going to devour him. He’s not told that.”
Like David, people carrying these burdens need somebody to walk alongside them and get to the real heart issues that are taking place.
“They just need to be walked with. And it’s a spiritual war that’s taking place and we’re not talking about that. And it needs to be talked about.”
Counseling at Set Free does not cost the counselee anything. Counseling specifically for veterans is available through Warriors Set Free. To sign up for an appointment or to contact Set Free, click here.
If you’d like to support the work Set Free is doing, click here.