Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Questioning God's Purpose in Time of War

A letter from Pvt. Walter Bromwich (1899-1974) to his hometown minister in Pennsylvania.  His unit, the 6th Engineers, fought with the highly active 3rd (Marne) Division of the AEF.

Members of the 6th Engineers Building a Pontoon Bridge on the Marne River, July 1918
Pvt. Bromwich May Have Participated in This Operation

Dear Reverent:

Here I sit in my little home on the side of the hill thinking of the little church back home, wondering how you are getting along. Don't think I am down-hearted because I am writing you, but it's a queer thing I can't explain, that ever since I volunteered I've felt like a a cog in a huge wheel. The cog may get smashed up, but the machine goes on, and I know I share in the progress of that machine whether I life or die, and that seems to make everything all right. Except, perhaps, when I lose a pal, it's generally one of the best but yet it may be one of the worst. And I can't feel God is in it.

How can there be fairness in one man being maimed for life, suffering agonies, another killed instantaneously, while I get out of it safe?  Does God really love us individually or does he He love His purpose more? Or is it better to believe he makes the innocent suffer for the guilty and that things will be squared up some day when those who have escaped suffering here will suffer, and those who have suffered here will escape suffering.  Sounds rather calculation, doesn't it, and not a bit like the love of a Father.

What I would like to believe is that God is in this war, not as a spectator, but backing up everything that is good in us. He won't work any miracles for us because that would be helping us to do the work He's give us to do on our own. I don't know whether God goes forth with armies but I do know that He is in lots of our men or they would not do what they do.

Do write me and let me know how the church is getting along. Remember me to all — especially The Altar Guild, and tell them to "carry on" the war work.  My motto is "carry on."  So here's good-luck to all.

Yours sincerely,

Pvt. Walter T. Bromwich
Company A, 6th U.S. Engineers American Expeditionary Force

Four months after writing this letter, Bromwich was shot in both the back and head during combat. After extensive hospitalization, he recovered fully from his wounds.

From: Grace Under Fire: Letters of Faith in Times of War by Andrew Carroll

1 comment:

  1. The German's were convinced that "Gott Mit Uns." So as to proclaim it on belt buckles and other detritus of militaria.