It’s been more than 55 years since I first landed in Saigon, Vietnam, as a young Army second lieutenant. After three days in country, I was transported to Pleiku in the Central Highlands to join the ranks of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery.
For the next six months I was assigned as a forward observer to Bravo Battery, working with the 1st Cavalry Division and Army of the Republic of Vietnam units and, later, with 4th Division troops when they first were deployed. During those months, we were all diabolically exposed to Agent Orange.
We were all quite aware that Agent Orange and other chemicals were being sprayed on dense foliage throughout Vietnam, but we had no idea of the dangers associated with breathing and being exposed to such toxic agents. We were simply there on a mission and did our best to defend the South Vietnamese from a North Vietnamese Communist takeover.
We had no idea there was a silent enemy in our midst that would later haunt many of us in country.
My first threat from this silent enemy was the diagnosis of skin cancer on my forehead before resigning my voluntary indefinite commission in 1970. For the next 50-plus years I’ve battled numerous cancerous growths — fortunately none were melanoma.
Yet, in all the dozen or more surgical procedures to remove cancerous growths, all that pales in comparison to my prostate issues these past five years.
Through it all, I’m now accepting Agent Orange, et. al. — which I prefer to simply call “whatever life throws at me.” And, yes, this world can be quite brutal. We all have to face the reality of bad things as we go through life.
Frequently, I turn to the Book of Job for solace. Job was a righteous man who faced more adversity than possibly any other person who ever lived, yet he remained faithful to his Heavenly Father. And, in turn, God blessed him for his faithfulness.
My Lord has adequately prepared me for whatever lies ahead. I think back to my 10-plus years of playing organized baseball and realize that I never guessed what that pitcher would throw on the next pitch. I simply focused on the ball and took an appropriate swing, if it was over the plate and to my liking. If it wasn’t a strike, I’d just let it go.
My goal was to simply get on base for the team. The Christian life is no different. We must step up to the plate every day and be prepared for whatever life throws at us.
Let me share the words of the Apostle Paul found in Philippians 3:13-14: “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Paul certainly suffered greatly as he set out to please Christ. Whatever the cost, we must seek the same prize.
Like Paul, I’ve come to realize that my minor afflictions (in comparison to others) are given to me as “a thorn in the flesh” so that I might be humbled and of greater use to my Savior and Lord for as long as He chooses to keep me in this world.
Accepting whatever comes our way is pleasing to our Lord. And, I’m certain our obedience will bring His Light to the immense darkness of this present world!
Passages to Ponder
— Jim Langley has been writing for more than 30 years while working as a life and health insurance agent in Santa Barbara. In recent years, his passion has turned to writing about his personal relationship with God, and his goal is to encourage others to draw near to Him as well. As a longtime member of CBMC of Santa Barbara (Christian Business Men’s Connection), he started writing Fourth Quarter Strategies columns in 2014, and he now reaches an international audience through the CBMC International devotional Monday Manna. He can be contacted at email@example.com for more information. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.