“Get up! Get up now!” The soldier had become somewhat used to being woken up like this in the middle of the night, but the shock never wears off. Eli HaiTov was serving in the Search and Rescue Brigade in the Israeli Army. They needed to be trained to be ready for action at a moment’s notice, and so the “surprises” came thick and fast.
Even when it would more natural to be groggy with sleep, they would obediently jump up, put on their uniform – orange berets and black boots, along with a heavy vest of equipment – and off they would go. Most often they had no idea what would be waiting for them, or how long it would take. They plunged into the dark, into the unknown.
The Search and Rescue Brigade is a highly skilled force trained to execute special search and rescue missions, both in Israel and abroad. In order to maintain the high standards necessary, the training was tough. These are the ones that other soldiers and civilians depend on for help in an emergency.
Dealing with the unknown
One of the toughest parts of the training was deliberately throwing the soldiers into the total unknown – a complete lack of certainty. They did not know where they were going, or what they would have to do. One time they were dropped Eli and his unit off in an abandoned wasteland for three days. They learned to survive on four hours of sleep. It was important that they were fully trained and experienced to deal with situations that are very challenging for the human mind.
Uncertainty, instability, insecurity… whichever word you choose, a lack of clarity is difficult for every human being to deal with. But just as the IDF drills soldiers by plunging them into the unknown, so God trains us to walk with him, asking us to trust him without knowing the details.
God girds us with strength for battle in our minds by stretching our faith muscle. Here’s how David expressed it in Psalm 18:
God girds me with strength
and makes my way straight.
He makes my feet like those of deer
and makes me stand on my heights.
He trains my hands for battle,
so my arms can bend a bronze bow.
You gave me the shield of Your salvation.
Your right hand upholds me,
Your gentleness makes me great.
You broaden my steps beneath me,
so my ankles have not slipped.
God, like a good commander, plunges us into situations that develop our ability to cope, come what may. We might feel as if he is withholding help, information, or provision from us. But perhaps he is not taking away from us, but rather GIVING to us. He furnishes us with skill to endure as he teaches us how to walk with him. He makes our feet like those of a deer, able to stand in high places.
By taking away our safety nets and our crutches, God forces us to depend on the only reliable source of strength and help: Himself. And suddenly we find capacity beyond what we even thought was possible.
For with You I rush on a troop,
with my God I scale a wall. (v.30)
Keep your eyes on the horizon
As has become something of a tradition for an Israeli soldier, Eli went traveling after his army service. It was while he was exploring Norway’s beautiful lakes that he discovered that he gets sea-sick. He was in a boat, and in the dark he was unable to fix his eyes on any stable point. The turbulence got the better of him. As anyone who has suffered with motion sickness will know, the internal conflict your body experiences and loss of inner balance can be very unsettling. Your body doesn’t know what is going on, and nausea ensues.
The solution is to find a stable point, and keep your eyes fixed upon it. The horizon is usually the answer.
So in life, we realise sooner or later that nothing is stable. Nothing is certain. There is no secure place that we can truly rely upon other than God himself. When uncertainty and insecurity swirl around us, and unsettle our souls, fear can arise.
Insecurity is basically fear. And the opposite of fear is faith.
But the author of Hebrews confirms that the way to strengthen our faith muscle is to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
Jesus is our horizon.
He is our source, and he is our destiny. We are encouraged to fix our eyes on the final outcome, just as Jesus himself did when contemplating the cross.
As true disciples, we are here to serve in God’s army – we are not civilians – and we are being trained to withstand whatever may come. We are subjects of an unshakable kingdom, and our future is 100% certain. We might protest at the rigorous regime God puts us through, but when we are made strong for him, we can serve like a well trained soldier in his elite search and rescue team.
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
Today Eli HaiTov works with ONE FOR ISRAEL, as a researcher and writer for our Hebrew-speaking audience. Eli loves to worship God, and you can listen to his music here.