How C.S. Lewis Helped Marine Veteran Affirm His Faith: ‘The Hardness of God is Kinder than the Softness of Men’
By Movieguide® Staff
For Marine veteran and pastor Jeremiah Braudrick, spiritual warfare made him doubt God and label himself as a “spiritual failure” for much of his adult life.
“For much of my life, I have assumed that I was a spiritual failure,” Braudrick wrote in March 2021. “How can that be? I’m a pastor. A father. A Marine veteran. I run a ministry that provides church services to inmates in Oklahoma prisons. I do my best to make God real to people desperate for something to believe in. How could a spiritual failure do all that?”
However, Braudrick revealed that his feeling of shame, guilt, and failure started before entering into ministry.
“Wind back the clock 12 years. I was transitioning to civilian life after eight years of military service, including combat duty in Afghanistan. My marriage was falling apart. I’d pretty much abandoned my faith during my time in the service. I suffered from depression. I was convinced God saw me as a worthless failure, and I agreed,” Braudrick confessed.
However, God was still watching over Braudrick, even as he wrestled with his faith. The start of an answer to Braudrick’s questions finally came in the form of a Facebook post.
“You know what pulled me out of all that? A quote I saw on Facebook. It was one of those random inspirational quotes people post. It read: ‘I have found (to my regret) that the degrees of shame and disgust which I actually feel at my own sins do not at all correspond to what my reason tells me about their comparative gravity,’” Braudrick said. “The language was complicated and formal, like something an Oxford don would write. I heard a simple message: Maybe my feelings of spiritual worthlessness weren’t the final word about me. Maybe I wasn’t the best judge of God’s attitude.”
He added: “Maybe I had a chance after all.”
Braudrick said he was surprised to find out that the quote’s author had also written some of his favorite childhood books, the CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by C.S. Lewis.
“Was that the same C. S. Lewis who wrote the Chronicles of Narnia books I’d read as a child? Was he a Christian? It was like he knew exactly what I felt and exactly what I needed to hear,” Braudick said, asking the question: “Who was this guy?”
“Answering that question changed my life. Along the way, I learned something about C. S. Lewis—a military veteran like me—that strengthened my reawakening faith,” he added.
One thing that stood out to Bruadrick from Lewis’s writing was his ability to sympathize with veterans.
“More than a century after his birth, in 1898, he remains beloved by millions. I encourage readers with a military background to give him a try,” Braudrick said. “Lewis was raised in a church-going Irish family but began to question his faith during his teens. At age 19, he was sent by the British Army to the front lines of World War I and fought as an infantryman in the hideous trenches. He was wounded by shellfire and returned home a committed atheist. More than a decade passed after his military service before he rediscovered his faith.
“Lewis knew the psychic wounds soldiers carry. He also knew how God can redeem all of that,” he added. “Thanks to Lewis, I now know too.”
Braudrick said that his spiritual immaturity, self-doubt, and shame led him to a low point in his life until he stumbled upon the works of C.S. Lewis.
“It was at this low point that I stumbled upon the C. S. Lewis quote on Facebook. I looked up the quote’s origin. It came from a book called Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer. I found the book in the library and devoured it. It was as if Lewis had been living my life, feeling my feelings, asking my questions. Difficulty praying? He’d experienced it. Intense self-doubt? Same. Confusion? Check. Guilt? Check. Spiritual loneliness? Check,” Braudrick recalled. “I hungered for more. I read Lewis’s classic Mere Christianity, which explained the faith I had grown up with in a way that made me want to be a Christian. Until then, I thought I had to be a Christian—or else.”
“I read The Screwtape Letters, correspondence between two devils on how best to tempt a man of faith. How did Lewis know so much about my own temptations?” he continued. “Then I got my hands on Surprised by Joy, Lewis’s spiritual autobiography. I came to the chapter called “Guns and Good Company,” about his military service. Lewis describes ‘the frights, the cold, the smell of [high explosives], the horribly smashed men still moving like half-crushed beetles, the sitting or standing corpses, the landscape of sheer earth without a blade of grass.’ Upon his return to England, he was determined to banish all thoughts of God from his mind.
“Lewis retraces the emotional and intellectual journey that returned him to faith and a new understanding of God. Recounting the night he ‘gave in, and admitted that God was God,’ he calls himself ‘the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.’ Most dejected and reluctant convert. That was me. Why would God welcome someone who had turned his back on him in so many ways? Half a page later, Lewis answers my question: ‘The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men.’”
After growing spiritually at Fuller Theological Seminary, Braudrick knew he wanted to share his testimony with others who may struggle with similar doubts.
“Many soldiers are like me when they enlist: young, looking for direction, inexperienced at making big life choices. They’re shipped all over the world and given enormous responsibilities. They find intense camaraderie—which vanishes as soon as they return to civilian life,” Braudrick said. “There are so many ways to mess up. So many opportunities to let someone down. It can be hard to become a mature, spiritually confident person with a healthy family life and a solid plan for the future. If you’re like me, you can leave the service feeling like an even bigger failure than when you went in.”
“Reading C. S. Lewis, I realized God is okay with all of that. God knows my faults and loves me anyway. I’m a work in progress. God’s work in progress,” he added, concluding: “I asked God to forgive me. I knew in my heart that he already had.”
Watch or read Braudrick’s full testimony here!
Braudrick also highlights the miraculous story in his book, “Removing the Dragon’s Skin,” available now on Amazon.
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