There are times when life is lived in the dark. Everywhere we turn—inside and out—the landscape is bleak and barren. God seems a million miles away and our prayers—when we can find the words to pray—feel like they go no farther than the ceiling.
I’ve been through those times—and come out on the other side. With pride, I’ve sent my son off to war twice. As proud as I was to have a son willing to sacrifice to serve his country, I was just scared that he’d be called on to make the ultimate sacrifice.
When our sons were small, I used to imagine their lives ahead—learning to drive, beginning to date, and going to college. Like most parents, I’d always assumed I’d have our sons’ college years as a sort of grace period between childhood and adulthood. More than I realized, I’d counted on that time of transition.
When Jimmy chose to go from high school graduation straight to Marine Corps boot camp, that transition time evaporated. One minute I was hugging my child, my oldest son, goodbye. The next time I saw him, he was a fully formed man—still my son, but without any trace of the child I’d hugged goodbye.
Before that year was out, he was half a world away, deployed in a war zone as a frontline infantry Marine.
It was during those deployments that I learned about darkness of the heart. I wanted to protect him, I ached to shield him from what I knew he was experiencing, but I couldn’t. So I did the one thing I could do. It began as my course of last resort because I was at the end of my own strength.
And I prayed.
And I prayed some more.
I searched for books of prayers that would help give voice to the emotions welling up in my heart, but found nothing. So I began to journal my own prayers. I learned how to take my overwhelming fear to the only One who could protect him. And I left my son in God’s hands. The prayers weren’t pretty. And that old deployment journal I kept is dog-eared and tear-stained.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was like a seed, planted deep in the ground. I was surrounded by darkness, by rough, rocky soil pressing in on all sides, crushing the life from me. But through that incredible pressure, the shell of my own strength fell away, and I slowly began to push toward the light that I knew was just beyond the darkness.
And my course of last resort became my strength, and the first place I turned. Instead of praying in desperation, I began to pray in confidence. I learned to lean into God, instead of turning in on myself.
On May 12, just after Mother’s Day, the final harvest of that time of darkness has come to fruition. It’s a book of prayers for those with loved ones in the military, While My Soldier Serves. I’ve written the book that I searched so hard to find. God has taken my time of darkness and is shining it as a light for those who are also facing the incredible stress of having a loved one at war.
Never doubt that God will bring a harvest of joy, no matter how dark the days you’re facing now.
As the mother of a frontline infantry Marine, Edie Melson lived this book before she wrote it. Edie understands what it is to face adversity and come out triumphant on the other side. Her years as a wife, mother, and ministry leader have given her a unique perspective to reach out to others facing the same struggles. She’s the Military Family Blogger for Guideposts.org, social media director for several writing websites, and a popular ministry and conference speaker. Connect with her on her blog, The Write Conversation, Twitter, and Facebook.