". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


War at Christmas: Let Us Pray for Those Spending the Holiday amid Fear and Fighting

December 22, 2023

“It is good that war is so terrible, or we should become too fond of it,” said Civil War General Robert E. Lee. Even with war being so terrible, it still occurs far too often. But this is not surprising, is it? Ecclesiastes 3:8 stated, there is “a time to love, and a time to hate, a time for war, and a time for peace.” And Paul paints a detailed image of how sin affects mankind by enabling mouths “full of curses and bitterness” and feet “swift to shed blood” (Romans 3:10-18). Be it wars between countries or wars within our personal lives, this world is full of fighting.

While these realities do not justify the heinous violence of war, it does start to explain it. Most recently, people across the globe have witnessed the unfolding of the war between Israel and the terrorist organization Hamas. It has been over two months of utter chaos since the moment gunfire and screams began on October 7. At this point, and on both sides, thousands of lives have been lost by vicious means. Families have been torn apart, homes destroyed to rubble, and nations threatened with elimination. And in the heat of the fighting are the families grieving their loved ones who are held hostage by the terrorists.

So, with Christmas around the corner, when most engage in joyful celebration, I want to urge believers to take some time to think of and pray for the soldiers, civilians, and hostages who are spending the holidays unsure if they’ll even see tomorrow.

The Soldiers

It’s no coincidence suicide rates are highest among soldiers and veterans. According to American Addiction Centers, “The suicide rate for Veterans is 1.5 times higher than that of the general population.” Suicide for these individuals is often caused by PTSD that follows combat. Men and women on the frontlines see, hear, and do things I can guarantee they never imagined.

The footage from Israel released to selected parties — with some visible to the public — showed what the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were dealing. Many who viewed these videos said they could hardly stomach what they saw. Now, consider carefully the people on the other side of the screen.

The IDF is already tirelessly risking their lives to defend the existence of the people and state of Israel. But especially in the face of such brutality, it can be impossible to know who’s who. This week, three Israeli hostages who were trying to escape from the tunnels of Hamas were killed by IDF soldiers who mistook them for the enemy. A horrendous tragedy, and one I’m sure will never leave the minds of the soldiers responsible.

But even after such a grave mistake, the mother of one of the Israeli hostages who was killed spoke out and encouraged the IDF that it was not their fault. “I wanted to tell you that I love you very much, and I hug you here from afar,” she said. “I know that everything that happened is absolutely not your fault, and nobody’s fault except that of Hamas.” She expressed that the soldiers are doing the best they can, and she wants them to take care of themselves. “And nobody’s going to judge you or be angry,” she concluded.

Her message is powerful because this is what these soldiers need to hear. They are human, too. They are going to be overwhelmed and stretched as thin as humanly possible. So, as believers, let us pray for them and every man and woman in uniform as they spend Christmas in one of the most inhumane environments known to man. And let us pray for Hamas too. These are people whose souls are lost to depravity, and they are in for a wrathful eternity should they stay in the darkness. Let us pray for them, that their souls may be washed by the blood of Christ — because we already know God is just to punish the wicked.

The Civilians

Let us also pray for the civilians both in Israel and Gaza. These are mothers, fathers, children, and elderly who are vulnerable to any aspect of this war. Thousands have already lost their lives or loved ones because of it. Imagine waking up one day and your entire world is engulfed in bloodshed, screaming, bombs, and death. Human beings are not meant to absorb all of this, and yet they have been for over two months.

Just War Theory is meant to protect the lives of the civilians, butthat task is almost impossible to fully carry out when the battle involves terrorists who use their own civilians as shields. And these civilians are not merely facing the trauma of war visually, but they are also grieving the loss of their siblings, parents, grandparents, children, and friends.

So, regardless of what side they’re on, let us pray for their wellbeing during consistent trauma and fear. Let us pray for the families as they wait in agony to know if Hamas has killed their loved ones or not. We serve an Almighty God, so may the Lord reveal His light to all civilians through this time of utter darkness and may as many of them as possible be spared from the insufferable pain of war.

The Hostages

Of those still held captive, it is uncertain what their conditions are — or if they’re even alive. According to The New York Times, “Of the 129 people that Israel says are still … held hostage, 21 are believed to be dead. Israel counts the dead in its total hostage figures.” We don’t know the details of how these hostages are being treated, but we can be sure they’re fearful — unsure of whether they will see their friends and family again, or if they will ever be free from the terrorists.

In such trauma and isolation, it’s possible many of them are unaware of the date or that it’s nearly Christmas and Hanukkah has passed. So, as we pray for them, let us pray for their mental and physical safety as they are under the control of Hamas during the holidays and however much longer. Let’s pray they are spared from torture, abandonment, and starvation, and, of course, pray for their release.

Ultimately, I’m not here to explain why atrocities like this happen to such a horrific degree. What I do know, however, is that they are the product of an incredibly fallen and broken world. Every single person needs salvation through Jesus Christ, and wars, pain, suffering, and loss are mere reminders of that.

I also know that amid all the brokenness, including the kind displayed in this war, there is a sovereign King. He is at work, even when we may not feel or see it, and our prayers are extremely powerful. Jesus said in Matthew 24:6-7, as the day of our Lord draws near, we “will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” Christians are already aware these things would happen and that they will continue to occur.

So, yes, please, enjoy your Christmas with loved ones. You should. But in the celebration, we ought to consider those who aren’t so fortunate. This is the time to share the gospel message and pray more vehemently. It doesn’t have to weigh down our spirits because, no matter the darkness, we serve a King who has overcome the world, and He is with all His people, including those in Israel and Gaza. Let’s not abandon them as they are surrounded in darkness, and let’s also pray for those who have yet to see the Light at all.

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.