GUEST APPEARANCE: Ukrainians’ secret weapon is no secret | Opinion

Consider yourself lucky when all sorts of hardships come your way. It is true — “trials” or difficulties. The author of these words felt compassionate enough to put them in the very first paragraph of what amounts to a guide to attitude and conduct in a morally disciplined world.

But how often do we feel lucky to have ourselves or our principles tested? Not often, if ever. Embracing anxiety goes against our natural tendency to moan and rebel. Why would I willingly accept the trials? Hitting my thumb with a hammer will never make me smile, no matter how many times I try. To associate any kind of difficulty with joy sounds a lot like mystical philosophy.

But isn’t that exactly what we are, mystics, creatures of mystery? Think about it. We live in a world with a disproportionate number of questions and answers, a world where something as simple as up and down is not absolute but relative, where time and space have no beginning nor end comprehensible. Who can deny that the origin of existence is the most confusing non-fiction thriller of all time? We bear the mark of mystery; there is mystery in our blood. That there are deep truths that can only be accepted by faith should not be one of those mysteries. That anxiety and joy share the limelight is not only reasonable but very fortunate.

No, joy is not our natural first response to unhappiness, and it shouldn’t be – it would go against our physiology. I speak from first hand experience when I say there is no joy in having bombs or ammo of any kind dropped on your head. There is no joy in the incommunicable immediacy of such a moment: the relentless force of compressed hypersonic air; blind bursts of high-velocity shrapnel; the prayer spat out in snatches, the time for formal devotion expired. No, the author of this seemingly ambiguous notion that hardship and joy are steeped in the same stew does not imply that at all. What he means is that when our faith is tested, at some point, endurance must be put on the table. Endurance hardens us. And faith is necessary to develop endurance. It’s either that or wither and die.

This is the kind of unwavering faith we are witnessing in the wake of Putin’s Lenten/Easter invasion of Ukraine, with Ukrainians showing almost superhuman endurance. They are suffering, yes, but they are suffering with the hope of resuscitating peace. Every obstacle overcome is a joy; each battle won, a joy. Bread may be rare in Ukraine, but faith lives on.

I was present when Shawn Sullivan, President and CEO of Mission 823, spoke on April 27 at South Lake Church, Clermont, Florida. Sullivan and his team have been advocating, rescuing and restoring at-risk children and their communities in Ukraine and Eastern Europe since 2018. When asked if he’s been busy these days, Sullivan replied, “More busier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, even when I was chasing Russians underwater in Southeast Asia. It has been noted that Sullivan was an “underwater guy”.

When Russian bombs started falling all over the country, the team’s mission changed from immediate care for children to an emergency crisis response mission. In the month prior to the interview, Mission 823 had rescued more than 12,000 lost people. Asked about getting people and things in and out of the country, Sullivan replied understandingly, “That’s sensitive information.” As the news reported, Russian snipers not only indiscriminately fire on civilians, but actively target aid workers. “People are hurting,” Sullivan said, “but they’re strong and they believe in God, they’re united and they want to be free.”

If there is a secret weapon in this war, Sullivan’s testimony revealed that faith and endurance are the foundation of Ukrainian success in defending their homeland and their Western ideals.

Donald Melville lives in West Ontario County. He is a published author, electrical engineer, cabinet maker, Vietnam veteran, husband, father and grandfather. He taught Christian education for 15 years and is still active in Bible study. He contributes to topics of interest and welcomes your comments at [email protected]il.com.