My mentor, John Olen Strange, was a chaplain on Guadalcanal during World War II.
Though he was part of “The Greatest Generation” and served during the most destructive war in history, you would have never known it from what he said. In fact, he never spoke of it and certainly did not seem to be traumatized by it. Like almost all veterans of that war, he returned home, finished his education (a Ph. D. in Old Testament studies), went to work, and raised a family.
Guadalcanal was one of the bloodiest battles of the war. It was a small island in the Solomon Island chain in the Pacific. The U. S. sent army, air, and naval forces but mostly Marines to take it. The ensuing battle lasted from August 7, 1942, to February 9, 1943. This battle stopped the Japanese offensive in the Pacific and gave hope to the world that Japan could be eventually defeated.
It came at a great price to both sides.
Out of 60,000 American troops, 7100 died and 7800 were wounded. The U.S. lost 29 ships during the six month battle. Japan lost over 20,000 killed.
With such a long and terrible battle, you would assume this could never be forgotten and you would wonder how anyone could get over it.
Dr. Strange’s favorite verses were from the Lamentations, a book of laments concerning the taking and destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
Babylon took Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem, killed many people, and carried a sizable number of Jews into exile in Babylon.
Dr. Strange quoted the words of hope and thanksgiving in the middle of the laments.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’ ” (Lamentations 3:22-24).
I’ve often wondered about these life verses. Were those verses learned in the middle of the battle? Were they used to praise God in spite of everything around them? Is it possible to give thanks and see God’s mercy in such sorrow and death?
Dr. Strange’s life and the lives of so many others show the blessings and goodness of God. It reminds us that all is not lost as long as the Lord is God. It shows us how our God loves and cares for His people.