World War 1 (WWI) trench warfare was some of the most horrific fighting that mankind has ever had to endure. The casualties were staggering. It is estimated that the total number of Allied deaths, military and civilian, is between 9.5 to just over 10 million people. In the Battle of Somme in France (1916), the British forces lost 60,000 men on the first day. Death came at the hand of enemy fire, bombing, poison gas, disease and infection. In letters to home, men wrote about the conditions, “I am lucky to say that I have been in the trenches twice or in other words have done two hitches in Hell as we call it and sometimes we think seriously and wonder if the latter place is any worse than some of the days we have spent” (Sergeant Henry Dube, May 18, 1918). Those horrific conditions have led to the popularization of the phrase “in the trenches” as going through some incredibly difficult time. It is often overused for dramatization, and most never experience anything close to what those men and women did in the early 20th century. However, it does communicate how people might feel struggling against sin.
There are those who, because of sin and guilt, are in the trenches of spiritual warfare. It is perpetual night in the trenches. No sun can be seen to lighten the heart. Every advance to take ground is a hard-fought struggle that seems to drain every strength you have, only to turn and give up twice as much ground as you took the day before. The entire time you never feel safe. You are always on high alert. Danger is all around and never lets up. It is a constant bombardment. A place of rest and comfort seems to be an ocean away. This feeling is highlighted by Paul, “But I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:23-24).
There are people trying to claw their way out of the trenches, but they don’t know how. Satan is bombarding them to keep them there. There is no way to escape without help. Paul wrote, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:25). Only by properly understanding salvation and the grace of God can we escape to live a new life (Rom. 6:4). Once we escaped, we became agents of the Most High God to show others the way out of the trenches. There are many around us who are struggling against sin. They are doing a hitch in their own private hell.
If you are in the trenches now, you don’t have to stay there. If you are not, are you helping or preparing yourself to help people out of the trenches? There is a rest that remains for those who escape the trench (Heb. 4:10-11).