Recently I had the extraordinary privilege to witness the testimony of one of the men involved in the firefight that took place when the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi was attacked on September 11, 2012. Not having read the book based on their eye witness accounts, “13 Hours”, nor having seen the movie adaptation of the book, I knew little of the role the six elite security contractors played in this tragedy. With so much focus on the political issues tied to this tragic event, years of experience in law enforcement has taught me to be skeptical and avoid the public accounts reported in the media in such matters.
The riveting testimonial of the vital significance faith played in the survival of these heroic men was inspiring and humbling. Not only did these men survive the fight of their lives, two members of this close knit security team did not survive the ferocious assault as they were killed fighting along side of their brothers-in-arms. The very public affirmation of three of the surviving security contractors credits God and their Christian faith for their survival:
- “We had so many times we could have quit and because of our faith in God and our faith in each other, we didn’t”
- “I know that His presence was there with me and it’s what got me through.”
- “So that’s what I hope that people get…Have faith in God that He will help you overcome any obstacle. Have faith that you’re in a situation that whether it’s good or bad, you’re there for a reason and keep your faith in Him.”
- “Faith means quite a bit to me, it’s just something that kind of guides you. It’s not about dying, it’s about how you live your life.”
Although my experiences pale in comparison to what these extraordinarily brave survivors endured, the sentiments they expressed are consistent to the lessons I have learned through my trials and that which I have observed through the experiences of others. I have been blessed to have been shown that there are choices we can make that will help us become a survivor just like these brave men of faith, instead of accepting the mentality of a victim. The difference between the two is a state of mind. A victim accepts their plight, surrendering to the adversity that has befallen them. Conversely, a survivor is unwilling to allow any tragedy to define who they are and actively works to overcome the adversity they now face. A survivor never gives up, as God is always with us during our times of greatest need.
Through the course of my life, I have observed an essential factor in developing the mentality of a survivor is faith in something greater than ourselves. It was my Christian faith that gave me the strength to never give up hope, to have the courage to continue to believe even when all seemed to be lost in my life. President Theodore Roosevelt contended, “Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.” Faith gives us the strength of courage, the ability to maintain hope, to incessantly continue to believe against all odds that all is never lost.
When the unthinkable happens, I have found the Bible offers guidance that can allow us to avoid becoming a victim or stop being a victim. Likewise, the Bible reveals the choices that must be made to become a survivor. Not only does it help us to recover, the Bible discloses to us how to take what has happened and helps us become stronger than we were before. Using this newly found strength, we can have an even greater positive influence on the people around us.
In his commentaries of the Apostle Paul’s teachings The Epistle to the Romans, prominent Welsh Protestant minister Martyn Lloyd-Jones offers the following interpretation of how God can make use of tragedies and difficult times to develop and shape our character:
“The initial hope comes from understanding the blessing of being justified by faith. We begin the Christian life full of faith and hope. Then we get hit by difficult trials. We cling to God like we’ve never had to cling before. We prove His faithfulness and He develops proven character in us as we endure. We come out the other side more certain of the hope of eternal glory with Him than we were before the trials. Our hope is stronger because it has been tempered in the flames of affliction.”
As I continue my study and grow in my understanding of the Bible, the more I find this is a book is both written for everyone in the world, yet at the same time a personal message from God to each of us individually. Incredibly, it is in this way the Bible is able to address examples of every experience we may encounter. When I read and reflect on the guidance we are given in the Bible, I am consistently reminded of how God has already applied so many of the lessons in my life.
This was never more evident to me than during the most difficult time I have experience in my life, the callous execution styled murder of dad in the Line-of-Duty. Dad, a Colorado State Patrol Patrolman, was killed two days after Christmas, and less than a month before my tenth birthday. Not only would God guide me through this most devastating event, and the difficult times that would follow, I would come to marvel how God would use my journey through these painful periods to help others. Just as God used people to help me through my difficult times, God has used these traumatic events to shape my character into a survivor so I could help others.
In Ephesians 2:8-10, the Apostle Paul teaches us:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Every time I read this scripture, I am astonished at how God has applied it in my life. It is astounding to look back at the tragic death of Dad and see how God would use this unthinkable experience to “prepared me in advance” so I could take such a horrifying experience to “do good works”, to somehow help by sharing what I had experienced with another so they too may know they are not alone. Knowing this they may find the same comfort, hope, and peace God had given me.
 “Men Of ’13 Hours: Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi’ Felt God’s Protection In Midst Of Battle”. Christian Post. N.p., 2016. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.
 “Heroes Of ’13 Hours’ Say ‘God Was With Us’ In Benghazi Terror Attack”. Christian Post. N.p., 2016. Web. 30 Apr. 2016.
 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Romans: Assurance” [Zondervan], p. 71.
 New International Version (NIV).