When Wars End

The following is an excerpt from the chapter, “When Wars End” in the book, “Wonder, Witness, and War.” Check out the entire work on Amazon. 

War is a terrible business. All of the curses of this life—death, destruction, disease, famine, suffering, betrayal, injustice—are bound up in the waging of battle. During the darkest points of human conflict, we throw up our hands in despair, crying, “How long, O Lord? How long can we endure this pain?” If only we could stop fighting, stop ravaging our lands and souls, stop spending trillions on our war machines, and instead invest in education, focus on rebuilding infrastructure, and concentrate our efforts on a “prosperous future.” But lasting peace eludes us, and cessation of hostilities brings its own Pandora’s box of disappointments, degrading compromise, and tolerated tyranny. Will there ever be an end? Is there any hope?

Beat Plowshares into Swords

Beat your plowshares into swords,

and your pruning hooks into spears;

let the weak say, “I am a warrior.” Joel 3:10

In the autumn of 2018, the civil war in Syria appears to be entering its final stages. After almost eight brutal years of mass displacement, unthinkable death tolls, heartbreaking wreckage, chemical weapons, and barrel bombs, it is conceivable that the fighting will end. During the time between the protests that shifted to armed uprising, the rise of the Islamic State, the Battle of Aleppo, the gassing of Eastern Ghouta, to the final deadly conflict in Idlib, the chief need of Syrians caught between the brutal Assad regime and the rage of IS was twofold: relief and hope. Relief from their present wounds and severe lack, and hope that it will not always be so. 

It was not for a pleasure in destruction that Syrians took up arms in 2011, but the oppressiveness of their situation burdened them past bearing. Something had to give, and what gave was the illusion of peace when there was, in fact, no peace. Syrians beat their plowshares into swords and the subsequent battles would cost more than could even be imagined or quantified. Half a million are dead, more than twice that wounded, and twenty-seven times that displaced—spreading the desolation well beyond Syria’s borders. 

What relief can be offered in the face of such devastations? To look at the whole is far too great a project for a single government or organization. Solomon, that wise king, exhorted in his book of Proverbs, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.”[1] One injury healed at a time, one cup of water, one wiping-away of tears, one snatching from death—this is the best mercy that can be ministered in the midst of war. But what hope can be offered to a people that have gone through so much? Any promises that the fighting will end are—at best—only temporarily true, and—at worse—false. Besides, what kind of hope is there in the loss of a war for which you sacrificed so much, a “peace” that means a worse situation for you and your children than when the war began? Only one hope remains and only one hope remains true: that after that final war, Jesus, King and Messiah of Israel, first among many brothers and the firstfruits of the resurrection of the dead,[2] will establish his Kingdom, the first and last administration whose reign will be just and whose peace will be eternal. 


You can read more in the book, “Wonder, Witness, and War.”

[1] Proverbs 24:11

[2] 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

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