The physical, emotional, and spiritual “soul damage” of war, combat experience, or military service is part of the battle you and your military husband will face when he comes home from active duty. Surviving and healing from the trauma and violence won’t be the most romantic thing you face as a married couple, but it could be the most important.
In Tending the Warrior Soul, Louis Harrison offers a tender, heartwrenching, and valuable look inside the heart and mind of soldier. He wrote this book to advance a counselor or minister’s understanding of the soul damage that warriors (such as soldiers, military combatants, or other types of army or navy service) experience. I want to share a few insights from Harrison’s book, to help army wives better understand their military husbands.
If your husband is a warrior or has military experience, I encourage you to read Tending the Warrior Soul. It is written from Harrison’s perspective as a counselor or minister for men who have served in active duty – and it is not intended as advice for you to “treat” your military husband in any particular way.
Rather, this book will give you valuable insights into your military husband’s spiritual, emotional, and physical experience as a combat survivor. This will change how you relate to him, and help you become a wise, compassionate, loving army wife.
When Your Husband Returns From Combat
Harrison wrote Tending the Warrior Soul not only to increase a non-combatant’s understanding of the spiritual effects of war, but also to support and encourage the ministers and counselors who work with military men.
Here are a three insights that stood out to me. This book contains an ocean of valuable information and I can’t do justice to everything Harrison shared; this blog post just barely scratches the surface. If your husband has served in the military, I do encourage you to read this book.
Your husband’s soul wounds need God’s attention
The “soul damage” your military husband faces after surviving combat is deep and difficult to address.
If he does talk to a military psychologist or counselor about his experiences, he may not receive the spiritual care he needs. Your husband needs to find the peace and rest only God can offer before he is truly ready and able to find healing for the spiritual and emotional damage of war.
As an army wife, you may know how post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects many men physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But, you may find it surprising – as I did – to learn that some military men need a deeper spiritual process to bring peace and healing to the core of their souls. Through the work of the Spirit of God your husband will find healing and peace for his conscience – especially if he needs assurance that his soul is clean before God. This is work only the Holy Spirit can do.
Even if your husband gets psychological help, his spirit thirsts for more
“The descriptors used, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Combat Operational Stress, and others potentially involve the hidden dimension of chronic spiritual conflict,” writes Harrison in Tending the Warrior Soul.
“Crucial help for the warrior comes through skilled medical, cognitive, and behavioral therapies. But it’s not the domain of these approaches to address the poison of chronic soul conflict. In our care for the warrior, if this distinction is not made he may receive excellent medical and psychological help, and yet be left with the lifelong plea, ‘I don’t want thanks; I want to be forgiven!’”
It’s wonderful and encouraging if your husband accepts or even actively seeks psychological counseling for his emotional wounds. But it’s also important to remember that his soul has been wounded in ways that psychology can’t heal.
As the wife of a warrior you won’t be able to give your husband the peace or forgiveness he needs, but you can pray for your husband. Pray that God leads him to the right counselor or minister. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, for the love and peace of Jesus to fill your husband’s heart, mind, and soul as he seeks to heal from the trauma of combat.
If you need help moving forward...
Your prayers, quiet support and steady love will help your husband heal
Every military husband requires different types of support – and his need will be affected by not only his combat experience, but whether or not he is returning to active duty. And, every marriage is unique! This means that there are no easy answers or quick tips on how to help your husband cope with post traumatic stress or the soul damage inflicted by war.
Be still. Spend time with the Lord. Listen for His guidance, for the Holy Spirit’s whispers that will help you know how to support your husband when he returns from combat. Some men need to re-learn how to communicate with civilians, while others seem to slip right back into home life as usual. Some men change after active duty; others appear to be unaffected. You know your husband, and you know yourself.
Trust your intuition, and ask God to give you wisdom and guidance as you walk alongside your warrior husband.
The Survivor Psalm – a poem by a warrior and veteran
While researching military husbands and the effects of combat on a man’s soul, I found this beautiful poem. This “Survivor Psalm” offers hope and faith for the journey towards healing and restoration.
by Frank Ochbery, M.D.
I have been victimized.
I was in a fight that was
not a fair fight.
I did not ask for the fight. I lost.
There is no shame in losing such
Fights, only in winning.
I have reached the stage of
Survivor and am no longer a
slave of victim status.
I look back with sadness
rather than hate.
I look forward with hope
rather than despair.
I may never forget, but I need not
I was a victim.
I am a survivor.
Take heart, dear reader. Trust the healing power of the Lord your God who created you and loves you deeply. Open your heart and soul to His love and guidance, and know that if you don’t give up on Him, He won’t give up on you.
I welcome your thoughts on supporting and helping your husband after combat below. I can’t offer advice or counseling, but you may find it helpful to share your experience.
Tending the Warrior Soul
In Tending the Warrior Soul, you will gain a greater insight and understanding of the spiritual and emotional traumas that your military husband is experiencing. Some of these “soul traumas” aren’t helped by even the most excellent psychological care, medical intervention, and official support military programs.
The mission of this book is to advance your understanding of this soul damage, and to offer support, encouragement, biblical counsel, spiritual challenge, and helpful resources.
About the author of Tending the Warrior Soul: Lou and Linda Harrison have ministered to the military for nearly fifty years through Cadence International — an organization dedicated solely to the purpose of “sharing the Gospel and our lives with the military community.” Out of these years of relationships with military people, Lou has composed a thoughtful and tender exposition of the warrior’s soul. Cadence International joins him in dedicating this book to every one of our country’s warriors and to their family and friends who walk lovingly and faithfully beside them.