Psalm 90:11–12 reminds us to number our days so that we can present to God hearts of wisdom. Ephesians 5:15 tells us to be wise, making the most of our time. Scripture often calls us to use each day to the fullest. But when we have a major event looming on the calendar, it can often make us forget the importance of today. Your deployment can seem so overwhelming that the days slip by without your noticing. But before long, you will be getting into your own bed for the last time in months. So be aware and plan to use your days with a heart of wisdom.
In addition to the truths about Christ, the cross, the significance of the gospel, and the importance of trusting God that you want to share with your family before deployment, there are several other important tasks for you as you prepare to leave your family.
Task #1: Cultivate Spiritual Life Now
You already know that the deployment will be difficult on everyone, so prepare now. Jesus made it clear that when you build your life on the rock, Christ Jesus, the storms may come but your life will remain secure (Matthew 7:24–27). So when you, your spouse, and your children find their joy and satisfaction in Jesus— when all of you find your trust in a God who is completely sovereign—then you will be prepared to face the difficult days. The following are four ways you can cultivate your spiritual life right now:
Focus on Jesus.
Colossians 1:18 explains that Jesus is to have first place in everything. Therefore, do all you can to assure that Jesus has first place in your heart. Regularly meditating on this verse about the preeminence of Christ will enable you to please him in your everyday life.
Focus on his Word.
You need the Word of God desperately. Psalm 19 describes its benefits using words like perfect, reviving, trustworthy, making wise, giving joy, giving light, more precious than gold, and rewarding for those who obey it. You need Scripture to help you think properly about your life, your family, your military service, and the job you are being deployed to do. The time you spend focusing on the Word of God is just as important as preparing your rucksack. So commit to reading the Bible every day and encourage every member of your family to do the same.
A vibrant walk with Jesus requires prayer. All of us are encouraged to devote ourselves to prayer (Colossians 4:2). This does not mean we must pray every second of every day, but our prayer time with the Lord must be significant. Develop your relationship with Christ now and encourage others in your family to spend time alone with him too. It might be true that “there are no atheists in foxholes,” but that certainly does not mean that every soldier is a committed follower of Jesus. Now is the time to strengthen your faith.
Be a regular part of your local church.
The military can be a place where it is easy to avoid church. Maybe the chaplain is not like your former pastor. It may be difficult to find a church near your home. Maybe it is hard to connect with others in the church, since most are not in the military. The reasons could go on and on. However, let Hebrews 10:23–25 encourage you to attend and become a vital part of a local church. You were never designed by God to be a solo Christian. You need others and they need you. As you prepare to deploy, your church family can be a major source of prayer for you. They can hold you accountable while you are deployed and they can provide for the needs of your family. Thus, being part of a local church is a crucial component of preparing your family for the upcoming deployment.
Task #2: Prepare for Temptation
Military deployments can be a source of significant temptation. Adultery, pornography, masturbation, substance abuse, and other temptations may bombard you while you are away from home. The wise person will take some steps to be prepared. This may involve purchasing a few resources that could help you overcome these temptations. It may mean keeping a small notebook with Scripture passages or concepts from God’s Word that will encourage you to stay pure in these areas. Memorizing Scripture verses for instant recall will also help you guard your heart and mind.
Temptations are not limited to you, however. Your spouse and children will face them too. As a result, the time before your deployment should include talking with each one about how to handle the temptations that may come while you are away. You may need to have “a talk” with your children about the physical maturing they will do while you are away and what that is like. It may be necessary to explain over and over to them that Mom is in charge while you are overseas. You may need to help your spouse understand the warning signs of a relationship that is getting too close. The point is that every member of the family will experience some temptations. Each one needs to be equipped to handle them in a way that honors Jesus.
Task #3: Be Willing to Talk with Your Children about Difficult Matters
While the type and amount of communication you have with your children will vary depending on their ages, it is important not to let your kids deal with deployment unguided. Children are, not surprisingly, immature. They need to express themselves and be instructed about deployment.
For example, teenage boys can be very hard to handle for a mother parenting alone while her husband is away. The boys may seek to carry out a God-given desire to lead. Unfortunately, they are seeking to lead in a relationship where they remain subordinate. Your boys need to be taught and prepared. It might be important for you to instruct them about leadership, respecting their mother, and treating girls in a Christ-honoring way.
Elementary age children may struggle particularly with the fear that Mom or Dad will never return. They fear what life will be like without a parent. Thus, it is important to regularly point your children back to the God who cares for Mom, Dad, and them. In other words, these younger children may need help working through their fears.
Your objective is to communicate with your children about the needs they express. It may be good to write a few letters to each child before you go. Your spouse can give them to your children over the course of the deployment as a special present from you.
Task #4: Get Your House in Order
The first three tasks were relational tasks involving your relationship with Jesus, your relationship to a church, and your relationship with your spouse and children. People should always come before tasks. If you are having trouble getting everything done, please get these first three done first and done best. However, it is also important to remember that leaving your family behind means there will be a gap. All the things you did around the home will need to be done by someone else. Therefore, one of the greatest ways to love your family is to handle in advance as many practical life issues as possible. These can take a tremendous amount of time and create great stress for your family. Consider having a plan for the following:
Work with your spouse to put a clear budget in place. Be sure your spouse understands it and that it reflects your shared wisdom in the areas where you each have responsibility. Your spouse will be in a much better position to make good financial choices while you are gone if there is a budget from which to work.
Everyone with young children, military or not, deployed or not, needs a will. Even if a court battle is unlikely in your situation, it is wise stewardship to record your wishes about your children and your property should you be killed.
If you own your home, get any and all needed repairs done. Let me caution you that your home cannot be your focus over your spouse and children. However, it does merit some attention in preparing for deployments. If you handle such details in advance, your family will not have to handle them while you are deployed.
Deployment is hard on everyone. Using your time to do (or arrange to have done) these tasks will put your family in the best position to focus on the right things during your time away.
Excerpt adapted from Leaving Your Family Behind: Preparing for Military Deployment ©2011 by Robert Green. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.
Leaving your family behind: preparing for military deployment
Rob Green shares timely biblical guidance for the soon-to-be-deployed on trusting God’s deliverance, cultivating a deep spiritual life now, and making the most of the time before you leave. His counsel will help to prepare you and your family for the challenges ahead.