Should I go into the military?

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Should I go into the military?

Jul 26, 2010 |John Thomas, Candice Watters
Question

I've been in a serious relationship for about a year and a half, I'm really wanting to get married, but I haven't completed much college, and I don't know exactly what I want to do for a living.

Right now I think that I want to enlist in the military. That would financially enable me to get married, and then when I came out I could go to college, and it would be all paid for. Not only that, I could serve my country!

I don't want to go into mass amounts of debt to get a higher education. I do have good grades, but not good enough for any scholarships. I also want to provide for my family as best I can. So enlisting seems like it would be a good move to me.

My girlfriend doesn't want me to do this, though, because she doesn't want me to be deployed. It's not like we're engaged or married, so how much should I let her opinion weigh in on decision making? Obviously it has to, to some degree. It's not like she's giving me an ultimatium or anything. She said she would support me if I decide to do this.

Answer
JOHN'S REPLY

First, God knows the number of our days, and we each have an appointment with that last day and only the Lord knows when it is. That applies to every single person whether a soldier, policeman, missionary or accountant.

So yes, there are "high risk" jobs and activities, and there are "low risk" jobs and activities. But looking at our life through the lens of a soveriegn God who knows the numbers of our days sheds a little better understanding about riskiness.

Now a little about jobs and financial provision. There are many of jobs that one can view as primarily a way for the Lord to help provide for one's family, but I wouldn't put serving in the military as one of those. Yes, that is a tremendous by-product of military service, but the primary purpose is to protect and defend one's country and a willingness to do so with one's life is part of the deal.

So the question — especially with military service — is not "How do I make a little money right now?" but rather, "What is it God is leading me to do?" If you have a strong sense that this is the direction God is leading, then you need to obey, girl or no girl. On the other hand, if it's just an idea that popped into your head as an income source to provide for a family, then I would consider other options.

The thing you have to decide is what is your God-given goal at the moment. Is it marriage? Then do what you must do to obey God in that area, and it sounds like military service is not the way to go. Is it vocational calling? Then do what you must do to obey God and trust His promise to take care of the rest.

The great thing is that both vocation and marriage are God-given callings, and in His timing and will they compliment one another, not contradict.

Blessings,
JOHN THOMAS

CANDICE'S REPLY

I'm glad you wrote before signing up; I hope you'll consider my reply prayerfully. It sounds like you want to marry your serious girlfriend. If so, then her thoughts on this do indeed matter. A lot. Especially if you want her to say yes when you ask her to become your wife. 

I love my country and believe I'd rank high on any patriotism measure. Few things are as admirable as men and women willing to risk their lives for the benefit of their countrymen. And military service does include the risk of death. For this reason, as well as the rigors of the training, and the probability of deployment, enlisting in the military is a serious commitment. To do so on the eve of your wedding would be even more so. A friend of mine married a soldier, and in their first year of marriage they were together for barely two months. 

I always feel sad for new brides who must spend their newlywed season alone. It makes me think of  Deuteronomy 24:5, "If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married." Military service is always hard on family life, but maybe never more so than in that first year of marriage.

You could and probably would be deployed (given all the war activity we're involved in presently), and you could die while serving. Are you sure this is something you're willing to do?

This is not a decision to make primarily because it comes with a free college education. Free school will hold little motivation when the work of soldiering gets hard, risky and more. But beyond that, a soldier who's serving primarily for the tuition benefits will be a weak member of his team. The way you've explained your motivation sounds to me more opportunism, or at best pragmatism, than patriotism.

Based on what you've written, and I realize it's a brief overview, I'd suggest you make a list of all the options you have for supporting a family and review them with your girlfriend and also a mentor. (Is there an older married man in your life you can talk with about this? Someone you trust, who is godly and wise? This is vital.) Are there skills you already have that are employable? Are there areas of interest you'd like to pursue in college? Is a degree essential for working in that field? Are you able to work now and start taking classes part time? A good mentor (father, pastor, older friend) will be able to help you think through these and other essential questions.

All of these pieces should be weighed before deciding.

I believe strongly in the value of military service (I've written about it in the context of dating and marriage in "I'm opposed to my boyfriend's military mission. What should I do?"). I'd be proud of my sons, if someday, they are called to serve. But military service should follow passion and a sense of mission given that the cost is so high. As you consider your options, this would be a good time to meditate on something Jesus said:

"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish'" (Luke 14:28-30).

This principle of counting the cost before you start "building" applies to whatever you decide to pursue as provider. It's just that some commitments are costlier than others, and a contractual agreement with the United States government is one of those very honorable, noble, valuable commitments — that comes with an extremely high price. This is not a decision to make with wrong motives. Or lightly.

I pray God will give you an adequate sense of sobriety about the decisions you're making. And may He guide you to decide wisely.

Sincerely,
CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2010 John Thomas, Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

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