Faith in the Fog of War: Stories of Triumph and Tragedy in the Midst of War

Faith in the Fog of War: Stories of Triumph and Tragedy in the Midst of War

by Chris Plekenpol


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War-Worn Faith

You want the flare of your faith to burn as intensely as a fire on the battlefield. That means digging into God’s truth regardless of the chaos raging around you. These devotions are written by a man who had considered war something that someone else always did, and was then himself deployed to Iraq as a company commander. From the frontlines of the blackest days and in the face of inexplicable suffering, you’ll discover the heart of the question, “Why, God?” and its often unsettling answer. Because in war, as in contemporary America , reality involves struggle, trial, and triumph. Let God meet you in the midst of life’s nonsense to find the peace that is a crucial part of His impeccable plan.

Why, God?

War screams the same questions whispered in everyday life. The battlefield explodes with the same tenacity of emotions that wretch our souls. Smoke fills the air just as doubt clouds our minds.

Are you on the frontlines of war overseas? Or perhaps your battle is personal, deep within. These devotions, penned by Captain Chris Plekenpol while on the battlefield in Iraq, expose the depths of inexplicable suffering as well as the heights of incredible victory in God.

Through every adversity and in any circumstance, you will find a still voice reminding you of God’s sovereignty…in war and peace.

“Faith forged in the crucible of combat! Chris Plekenpol is a warrior and he has compiled a great guide for victory in the battles we all face.”

Oliver L. North

Host of “War Stories” on Fox News and author of The Assassins

“There is no theory here. Just the battle-tested insights of a soldier who has learned to trust his heavenly Father in the valley of the shadow of death. You are going to love this book.”

Andy Stanley

Pastor, North Point Community Church

“Amazing encouragement from the heart of the battle!”

Louie Giglio

Passion Conferences

Story Behind the Book

“I began writing devotionals as both a preparation for seminary and as a ministry tool during my service in Korea . At first, I sent them only to a few people. Then, as I wrote more frequently, I received e-mails requesting my devotions. I continued writing during my deployment to Iraq , tackling such issues as life in combat as well as the triumph of God in the battle. My purpose in writing this book is to further God’s work in my life by ministering to others through my experience in the heart of the battle.” —Chris Plekenpol

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590527412
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/28/2006
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.22(w) x 8.23(h) x 0.42(d)

About the Author

Chris Plekenpol earned his mechanical engineering degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1999. His baptism in December of the same year marked a drastic change in his perspective on the army and life. Chris was deployed to Iraq in 2004 as a tank company team commander responsible for one hundred men and 85 million dollars worth of equipment. Chris, unfortunately, lost six men under his command. God has called Chris into the ministry, and after resigning from the army, he plans to attend Dallas Theological Seminary.

Read an Excerpt


I raq. My “home” for the present. The place where I’m writing this book.

It’s February 2005. The Iraqi national elections have passed, and we are witnessing the dawning of democracy in a country that has, for the past fi fty years, been caught in the quagmire of dictatorship. Freedom has been granted. But still we must battle pockets of resistance along Highway 10, the main route between Ramadi, Fallujah, and Baghdad.

I have trained hard to be where I am in my career. I graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. If only I had worked half as zealously on my relationship with God. While I was at West Point, I limited myself to what I call a “fan” relationship with God. I would go to the games on Sunday and talk about Him with the boys, but I didn’t really know Him. It wasn’t until December 5, 1999, that I gave myself wholly to Him at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Since that time, I have lived every day with unbridled passion for Christ.

After I left West Point, the Army put me through Ranger School, Airborne School, Air Assault School, Jumpmaster School, and Special Forces Assessment and Selection. I passed them all. It was not my intent to stay in the Army long enough to end up at war in Iraq, but that is what happened. Now I see that it has all been for God’s glory. Still is.

I love what I do. In his book Wild at Heart, John Eldredge describes the Warrior Poet. That’s how I see myself. We’ve been trained to think of the Christian man as a “nice guy,” tame, unwilling to rock the boat. But Exodus 15:3 says that “the Lord is a warrior.” When I read that, I get the sense that He’s not afraid to rock the boat at times, and He expects us to fi ght and rock right there beside Him.

A warrior seeks out the harder right over the easier wrong. He is not faint of heart. These codes were impressed upon me throughout training at West Point and Ranger School and, of course, by my mom. I was taught that honor is defi ned not by niceness, but by doing what is right. The Warrior Poet is characterized by all that it is untamed, strong, and fearless. He never compromises God’s righteousness, but he also embraces the softer side of love.

As a Warrior Poet, I command men ready for battle. I never used to think of myself as a Warrior Poet, but I always dreamed of becoming one. I entertained aspirations of living fearlessly in the face of death. But I was afraid. Afraid I could not do it.

I found out I can. I’m doing it now. It’s as if I were dropped into the ocean and given two options—sink or swim. Of course, my desire was to swim. But without my God watching over me, I’d be out of my depth, even with all of my training and conditioning. That’s why I cling to Him like a little girl to her father’s leg. It’s good that this task is an impossible one—one that involves pain and struggle. If I didn’t need God, I wouldn’t seek and fi nd new strength of character in Him. I have learned this while walking the hard road that has led me here, to my sixth month in Iraq. As you read this, I may still be here fi ghting, or I may already have departed this earth to enjoy Glory forever. None of us knows what tomorrow may bring.

I am not so different from you. Before my deployment to Iraq, the Army was just a job. It was a place to go and work, and then I came home. I never thought of myself as a noble hero. But September 11, 2001, put everything into new perspective. For the fi rst time, I felt that I was part of a Warrior Class. I left the 82nd Airborne Division and, after further captain-schooling and a year in Korea, found myself deployed as a company commander here in Iraq in the summer of 2004.

Before Iraq, I had never seen a real dead person. But within a month of my arrival, I was searching the highway for one of my soldiers. When I found him, I could not even recognize the playful, funny, crazy kid who had only hours before joked about being, in truth, a Delta Force Operative working undercover as a loader in my tank company. I have watched the enemy die and wondered in my heart if it was wrong to witness a man in the moment of his fi nal heartbeat and be glad. I have picked up our own dead more times than I want to remember, questioning secretly why, when I said, “In the name of Jesus, get up and walk,” nothing happened.

I prayed desperately for a lieutenant who lay dying in the arms of one of my medics. He had decided to come out into sector because he didn’t feel involved. As he crossed over from earth to eternity, I had to tell his best friend, “Keep it together! You have men to lead! Wipe your eyes, and let’s go!” when the whole time I just wanted to sit down and cry.

I have spoken at two memorials and shed tears at ten others. I have prayed with my men, wept with my men, bled with my men. In all this, my goal and my heart’s cry has been to see God glorifi ed somehow in this surreal world that reminds me of hell more than it does the birthplace of civilization.

I have lived through fi refi ghts, bullets fl ying at me, my bullets fl ying back. I have kicked in doors, like they do in the movies, the jamb splintering and the door falling at my feet. I have arrested more men than I can remember. I have cuffed them and blindfolded them and taken them away. I have watched women beat themselves in confusion, trying to fathom the reality that I’m taking away their only source of income. I have felt the steel grip of an old woman trying to make me understand why I should not take her son. I have removed my sunglasses for her, so she could see I have a heart, that I am not some sort of soulless, faceless robot.

I have hugged kids and given them soccer balls and Beanie Babies. It made their entire year. I have taken away their fathers. It was their worst nightmare. Many times I have wanted to emotionally detach myself from these people. But that would be a kind of death. I choose to live.

I have written this book so that you might step into my world for a moment and see this life through my eyes. I constantly struggle to “work out my salvation with fear and trembling.” I know I’m heaven-bound, but I also realize that I have a lot to “work out” in order to know God better and to plumb the depths of His heart.

I love God with everything that I am. And, being human, I fall short daily in my efforts to live out my thanks to Jesus Christ. See? I told you that you and I are a lot alike. I’m here, not because I’m braver or bolder, but simply because God chose to put me here, and not somewhere else. At heart, each of us is that Warrior Poet that God is calling to step up, to claim our rightful place as heirs to His throne. We are the children of God! And each day of my life is a new lesson about what that means.

What you are about to read is a compilation of e-mails I wrote from Iraq to those who were concerned, to those who were praying, to those who were learning what it was to follow after God. In my writings, I’ve described events I have experienced and witnessed in Iraq. And I have told it the way it happened, sometimes on the very day it happened. I believe God had a purpose in shaping into a book my fi rsthand account of war and my relationship with Him, and I’m excited to learn how He will use it. I pray that as you read this, you will be challenged to relentlessly pursue His purpose for you. That you will live out loud for the cause of Christ.

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