I just finished reading a book about a team of Navy SEALs. SEAL stands for Sea, Air, and Land, which covers just about any arena where these men are equipped to fight. The first half details the grueling program SEALs must endure as the ranks whittle down and men drop out, unable to complete the rigorous torture. I mean training. When one gives up, unable to go another moment, he rings a bell and everyone knows they’ve lost another candidate.
And, while a complicated labor and delivery might compete with a lot of the suffering these troops undergo, it’s still amazing that certain men willingly bear what seem like impossible drills, starvation, ripped muscles, broken limbs, pneumonia, and hallucinations from lack of sleep. Labor, remember, is not optional once your nine months of pregnancy is up. And you do it with the joyful anticipation of holding a darling baby when it’s done. But these guys, in what some would argue is a burst of insanity, purposely sign up for weeks of unrelenting torment. (And you thought Girls’ Camp was tough).
However, it’s a win-win. The graduates receive an honor unlike anything else the military can bestow. They become the elite of the elite. And the rest of us win, because we now have superhero warriors willing to defend our country to the death.
Could you do it? I’ll admit right here and now I’d quit SEAL training the moment I was told to jump into a cold ocean, roll around in the sand, then do a billion pushups while someone screams in my ear about what a wuss I am. I already know that. I also know Southern California, and I would march exactly 1.4 miles from the Coronado Seal Base down Silver Strand to the Hotel del Coronado where I would check in fast as lightning, jump into a hot bath, then set up a massage and dinner reservations. And I would courteously apologize for tracking in all that sand.
SEAL training is not for everyone, not even for a lot of guys who think they can hack it. But I’ll tell you what is for everyone. It’s another kind of battle entirely. It’s the battle with Satan. And this is a battle every single one of us can win.
And, I say with full confidence, it can be a whole lot tougher than SEAL training. Physical endurance, coupled with raw determination, still isn’t as powerful as spiritual endurance. Ask anyone who has been given trials and grief beyond imagination, yet who has persevered and triumphed over the adversary. Ask someone who has stayed active despite being disowned, divorced, and persecuted. Ask someone who has repented from grievous sins and addictions, and survived his own Gethsemane, to embrace and accept the Lord’s atonement.
There are awesome victories all around us, people who have quietly triumphed in holding fast to the rod, who’ve lost everything but their testimonies, clinging to the gospel when everything around them tried to pull them away. It can be done; God has promised it.
But the way to survive life’s serious setbacks is actually similar to the way Navy SEALs survive their training: They accept nothing less than absolute victory.
The ones who make it don’t enroll thinking, “Well, this is going to be hard and I hope I can do it.” They go on the attack, and resolve that nothing will stop them from total and complete success. They become single-minded in their determination, ready to die before they’d quit. Most of them also rely on God, and their faith is a key component to their success.
And that’s how we have to view our personal pledge to make it home, to attain the Celestial Kingdom, to beat the odds. We have to charge forward, trample Satan and his temptations, unrelentingly focused on our goal. When we talk about “putting on the whole armor of God,” what do you think it’s for? It’s for those unseen battles that can destroy us before we’ve even realized we were in a conflict. It’s for taking life seriously and coming out the victor.
Too many of us are comfortable swimming in the same waters as Satan. We may not be holding hands with him, but he’s nearby, and we don’t take him as a very serious threat. We paddle about and glance over at him from time to time, but for the most part, ignore him. Wrong. We should climb out of the water and get as far away from him as possible. If I had an oar I’d bang him on the head with it. You do not want to be anywhere where Satan is comfortable.
Allow me another metaphor, if you will. You’ve all heard of the Black Mamba snake that lives in Africa, right? Its deadly bite will usually kill a person within an hour, sometimes within 20 minutes. But let’s say you find one in your home. You know it’s a mamba from its length, its speed, and its inky black mouth. Would anything distract you from this emergency? You’d undoubtedly jump into action, and nothing—not eating, sleeping, and certainly not watching television– could displace this Number One priority. You’d knock over lamps and tables and do whatever it took to kill it. And it would be worth smashing every stick of furniture in your house, if it meant keeping you alive.
This is the seriousness with which we must wage battle with Satan. In fact, you’re better off with a Black Mamba, because if you die in good standing with God, you are simply separated from your body for awhile. You remain in that state of righteousness and have succeeded in your quest to return home. But if Satan conquers you, the death is a spiritual one, separating you from God. This is far more serious and constitutes a true tragedy. There is a road home, but it is a grueling one much harder than you can imagine, much harder than anything the military has thought of. You are infinitely better off being a warrior in the first place, and defeating the enemy long before he can ensnare you.
The philosophy of the U.S. Navy SEALs is, “I will never quit… My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates… I am never out of the fight.”
And we can add that we will take on every shred of injustice, cruelty, betrayal, and loss that life can hand us, without buckling. We will stay active in the true, restored Church of Jesus Christ at all hazards. We will keep our covenants and remain in His camp forever. No matter what, we will valiantly endure to the end.
Who needs this kind of unbending determination? The missionary who doubts if he can last two years. The pornography addict. The new convert whose co-workers keep hassling him about joining the Church. The mother who keeps losing her temper with her children. The teenager whose friends are a bad influence. The woman who battles with self pity. The father who feels discouraged after losing his job in this tough economy. The list is endless and would include every one ever tempted by Satan.
We need to look at our challenges and ask ourselves, “Who wants us to fail, here? And who wants us to succeed?”
When someone offends us, we need to think, “Oh, you’re gonna have to do a lot better than that, to get me to fall away. In fact, nothing you could possibly do or say will change my destiny nor my determination.” Instant victory. Instant.
The War in Heaven rages on today. Like it or not, as the hymn says, “we are all enlisted.” It’s just that some of us don’t yet realize it, and haven’t picked up our weapons. The fight is real, the consequences are real, and the help from God is real. We just need to adopt the same unwavering willpower as the SEALs, remember that we’re on God’s team, and then fight like your very salvation depends on it. Because it does.
Cruise with Joni and her husband, Bob, to Spain, Italy, and France May 12-19, 2012. Double occupancy starting at only $659.00 per person! See jonihilton.com for more information
Joni Hilton has written 17 books, three award-winning plays, and is a frequent public speaker and a former TV talk show host. Her latest book, “Funeral Potatoes– The Novel,” has just been scheduled for publication by Covenant Communications. She is also the author of the “As the Ward Turns” series, “The Ten-Cow Wives’ Club,” and “The Power of Prayer.” Hilton is a frequent writer for “Music & The Spoken Word,” many national magazines, and can be reached at her website, jonihilton.com. She is married to TV personality Bob Hilton, is the mother of four, and currently serves as Relief Society President in her ward in northern California