NORFOLK, Va. (BP)–In many ways, they are just as courageous and heroic.
Not because they are sent to distant lands to answer the call for freedom and democracy, but because they remain home as the rock of a family, maintaining a steady course on all the daily challenges of life.
They are the spouses of members of the military, those who endure separation from their loved ones and must develop into the leader of the household whether truly ready or not.
Those who are believers cling ever-so tightly to the Lord to get them through both the emotional and real-world challenges of being married to a military member — and facing the deployments that come with that union.
Kristy Rickman and husband Michael, who is stationed on the currently deployed USS Roosevelt, pray together, share Scripture verses and discuss sermons/Bible studies together by e-mail.
Their exchanges are a lot more God-centered these days, as opposed to their previous tensions, now that they have turned their lives over to Christ — a transformation that occurred nearly two years ago. They have been calling First Baptist Church in Norfolk, Va., their church home since. The Rickmans had been married for four years before committing their lives to the Lord and had already endured two deployments.
Kristy doesn’t know how they survived then without God. She explains that deployments and other separations leave big holes in the heart, holes that can be filled with a multitude of things, some of them not so good for the body or soul. But God now fills that emptiness.
“Faith keeps me going, especially in the difficult times. We just turn to Him,” Kristy said.
Because the war on terror is a different from global conflicts of the past, its effect on families can create new challenges, says Linda Montgomery, who works on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ’s military ministry and is the co-author of a new HomeBuilders study titled “Making Your Marriage Deployment Ready.”
Families today must deal with multiple deployments as well as increased uncertainty and stresses of the particular deployments, Montgomery says.
Christian faith can play an important part in alleviating the strains because believers seek to understand and accept the sovereignty of God, which can provide perspective when things seem out of control, Montgomery says. They can see God at work in their lives, which inspires hope and inner healing through His daily care. Their knowledge of the promise of God’s presence can counter feelings of loneliness. And most importantly, their spiritual foundation is secure in His forgiveness and eternity in heaven, which gives strength and anchors one’s soul during dangerous times.
Montgomery’s counsel to military wives includes asking for help when it is needed; making good choices in friendships and finances; taking time to rest; finding a good church for worship and fellowship; and spending time in prayer and communication with their spouses. One way that couples can stay connected spiritually while separated by duty is with reading online devotionals “together,” Montgomery says, noting that one devotional specifically for deployed couples is ExcellentorPraiseworthy.org.
She also recommends that wives participate in small group Bible studies, where individuals are safe to share their stories and ultimately live in victory in a Christ-like way over the struggles they face.
For Cara Morrison, whose husband Phillip is part of an explosive ordinance disposal unit, the Lord provides a peace despite the dangers in his line of work.
“You just have to trust in Him and know that He will keep my husband safe,” Morrison says.
That sense of peace is crucial to stability, other spouses say.
“He is my rock; I talk to Him to move through all the insecurities that we face,” said Megan Riegal of Hampton, Va., whose husband Tim is a third class petty officer who works as an aviation electrician.
Bobbie Simpson, who is commissioned with her husband Larry as an outreach couple with the Officer Christian Fellowship, says the key for spouses is to maintain a personal relationship with Christ to be properly equipped for the struggles. By first finding a depth in Him, through intentional prayer and study time, the difficult moments won’t be so tumultuous.
“The Lord intends for us not only to survive but to thrive in times of trial,” says Simpson, whose husband retired as an Air Force colonel after 27 years of service.
The power of prayer and the peace of a walk with God was evidenced one day to Kristy Rickman when her 7-year-old son Christian used prayer to get through his fears.
“He was saying that he was scared and I told him to pray. He did, saying, ‘Lord, keep my daddy safe.’ It brought tears to my eyes. I know that the Lord heard his prayer and is watching over my husband.”
Adam R. Cole is a naval officer stationed aboard the Norfolk, Va.-based cruiser USS Normandy and a member of First Baptist Church in Norfolk. He has served with the Navy four years, first as an enlisted journalist and now as a surface warfare officer.