This is our Golden Hour. Ticktock.
Almost everyone who has seen combat up close would affirm General William T. Sherman’s observation that “war is hell.” But in case my childhood Sunday School teacher is inclined to wash out my mouth with soap for using the “H” word in polite company, I want her to know that I am among those who agree that, at the very least, war is not heaven.
Despite the unheavenly realities of war in a fallen world, God’s sovereignty is on full display as we see the many ways good can result from the dreadful conflicts we wish would never take place. In a sense, many who bear the scars of battle echo Charles Dickens by observing that the circumstances leading to their scars were “the best of times” and “the worst of times.”
National restorations, political realignments, humanitarian successes, technological advances, religious revivals, inspirational examples of courage under fire, comradery forged among warfighters in the trenches, and a litany of lessons learned in every skirmish routinely outlast the ceasefire. Others can decide if these benefits are worth their costs, but the benefits nonetheless persist as evidence that all things work together for good in God’s good time.
One substantial benefit from the first two decades of 21st-century warfare is the lingering significance of what combat medics call the “golden hour.” Every second counts when your life is on the line, none more critical for a wounded warrior than each tick of the clock in those first 60 minutes following a traumatic battlefield injury. Our medics have learned that the odds of survival increase dramatically when the right people provide the right treatments in the right way at the right time, so our military medical evacuation system exists to seize that golden hour with gusto. Without question, saving a hero’s life is a benefit that is always worth the cost.
Survival in these situations requires decisive, coordinated action as the bullets fly and the battle rages. Since there is no way to pause the clock counting down the golden hour, action is the only avenue through adversity. Because evil triumphs when good people do nothing, doing good in the face of adversity is the best kind of adventure this side of heaven.
The biblical heroine Esther learned this lesson the hard way from her older, wiser cousin Mordechai. Standing at the crossroads of faith and fear, wondering if putting her life on the line to save others was worth the cost, Esther hesitated until Mordechai convinced her that the clock was already ticking on her golden hour. In Mordechai’s words, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)?
Although every generation of Christians has at some point considered their culture to be on the eve of destruction, something about this cultural moment seems closer to that particular 11th hour than many Christians can remember. Not coincidentally, significant current declines in church attendance mirror appreciable rises in anxiety, depression, and a host of other maladies that put our friends and family at risk. Unlike any previous generation in modern memory, the generation now coming of age lacks a healthy sense of meaning and purpose found only in genuine Christian community. We seem increasingly on the losing side of cultural battles that pit societal and scriptural understandings of human flourishing against one another. Every generation has managed to rage against the machine in one way or another, but our generation has also managed to rage from the machine—that handheld device that emboldens us to say the vilest things about our neighbor in cyberspace that we would never say to their face.
In times like these, it is tempting to respond in kind by being similarly unkind. Commanding our neighbors to “get off our lawn” might delude us into thinking we have won the battle against those whose perspectives are so radically different from our own. As good as that might feel in the heat of battle, we have been called to so much more than that.
Scripture reminds us that our “enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). As a result, too many of our neighbors lie bloodied, beaten, and bruised on the battlefield. Now is the time for coordinated, decisive action to rescue them, escort them to safety, and invite them into the abundant life Jesus has in mind: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
I recently heard Jim Denison distinguish between God’s geographical call and His chronological call. With the former, the Lord calls you to serve in a particular place. With the latter, He calls you to serve during a particular time period, even if you wish He had called you to serve in another. Who knows that we have been called to our respective positions for such a time as this? This is our golden hour. Ticktock.
The Rolling Stones were not right about everything, but they were right about this: time waits for no one. Your neighbors need you to rush to their aid, so get on with it. Seize their golden hour. What are you waiting for?
This was first published in the CSU Magazine, Spring 2022 issue. You may view the entire issue here.