Last Updated on April 13, 2023 by OCF Communications
Episode 42 show notes
About today’s guest
Jeff Struecker enlisted in the United States Army as an Infantryman at age 18 and retired as a Chaplain with over 22 years of active federal service. In 2017, he was inducted into the US Army Ranger Hall of Fame. He served for ten years in the 75th Ranger Regiment in positions from Private to Platoon Sergeant. While serving in this unit, Jeff competed in and won the David L. Grange Best Ranger Competition in 1996. He taught ROTC at the University of Louisville and was recognized in 1998 as the US Army ROTC, Noncommissioned Officer of the year. Jeff spent his final ten years in the US Army serving as a chaplain in Airborne and Ranger units.
Throughout his career, Jeff has attended numerous professional military schools and has received many awards and commendations. Some of his awards include the Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Pathfinder Badge, Master Parachutists Wings, Military Freefall Master Parachutist Wings, several foreign jump wings and the Combat Action Badge. He has been awarded other commendations and decorations throughout his military career.
His combat experience includes participation in the invasion of Panama, Operation Desert Storm, Black Hawk Down in Somalia, and more than a dozen combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Jeff has been awarded medals for valor in combat and has received many medals as recognition for his service in the US Army.
Jeff holds a Ph.D. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. He also has several other earned and honorary degrees. Jeff in an award-winning author with five books in print. He and his wife, Dawn, have five children and two grandchildren.
About our conversation
Jeff’s book, “The Road to Unafraid,” is the centerpiece for the conversation. Any number of perspectives or themes can be found in the book—God’s calling; knowing God’s will; His providence—but Jeff and I focused on trusting in God. In the face of fear and uncertainty at certain times throughout his life, I asked Jeff to talk about how God asked Jeff to trust Him and what that looked like in his life, particularly his military career.
I also picked out a few key points in his life and quotes from the book and had Jeff fill in the blanks as we discussed the broader topic of trusting God in all things.
What we talked about
Where Jeff’s from and his family life.
Three things from Jeff’s childhood: First, his fear of death and all the questions that go along with it; second, the fact that he walked alone to a nearby church because no one from his family would go with him; and third, the young couple who visited him to share the Gospel. What was God doing during those early years?
Jeff went from Burger King to the Army after high school and talks about that period of his life. Looking back, where were God’s fingerprints during this period of life?
Jeff comments on these two quotes:
- “What I was learning about the unknown was that sometimes its advance billing sounds worse than the reality…The experience, in fact, can be an opportunity to train for an even greater task down the road.”
- “I had learned to keep performing even if the circumstance wasn’t fair. The enemy wasn’t always going to fight fair. No use whining about it.”
The impact of Kurt Smith in Jeff’s life, and how Kurt’s conversion caused a lot of guilt and introspection in Jeff’s life.
Jeff comments on this quote from his book: “A lot of people look down on a soldier who’s a Christian, thinking he’s automatically weaker than the rest. He is assumed to be too compassionate and distracted with moral restrictions to be tough, that the enemy on the battlefield can exploit his weakness more easily.”
When he was with the Third Ranger Battalion, Jeff talked about being afraid of failing morally and spiritually.
Jeff’s deployment to Kuwait, and some difficulties there, would come into play when he deployed to Somalia. “Submitting to a higher authority is one of those life struggles that frustrates us all from time to time, both in and outside of the military.”
Jeff gives a quick summary of what was going on in Somalia, why we were there, and his role in the mission. What did it look like to trust God during this deployment?
After the events in Mogadishu, Jeff found himself fielding all sorts of questions, and some frustrations about God and other spiritual matters, from the men he served with because they knew he was a Christian. “I didn’t try to talk them out of their strong feelings. I just let them vent. Far greater minds than mine have struggled with why pain and suffering are so rampant in our world and how much of it is humanity’s fault.”
How God called Jeff into the ministry and the ruckus that news caused around Ft. Benning. Jeff talks about what did this do to his faith and trust in God while he waited on Him for a clearer direction.
After some time, Jeff found himself back in the Army, but this time as a chaplain assigned to the Second Ranger Battalion. During a deployment to Iraq, Jeff said those old fears from earlier in his career tried to resurface: “That’s the way it usually is with our fears. We don’t beat them back once and for all. They keep returning to test us, to see if we still have the faith and courage we showed last time.”
“The opposite side of fear is not courage. The opposite side of fear is faith.”
Where does God have Jeff now? What’s on the horizon?
I ask Jeff: If listeners took away only one thing from our conversation, what would you hope that it would be?
Jeff recommends “Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering” by Tim Keller for those wanting to read more about the topic of handling difficulties and the struggles of life.
Jeff closes by talking about one of his books, “Hide and Seek.”
We have one signed copy of “Hide and Seek” to give away. Just send an email to [email protected] by 31 August for your chance to win.
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