Approximately 1000 out of 40,000 applicants are chosen each year to become Navy Seals. The training lasts for some 70 weeks and is one of the most demanding, grueling training programs in the world. As a result of the physical and mental demands of the training, only 200-250 of the 1000 men who start the training are able to complete it.
Naval Admiral William H. McRaven, speaking to graduates at the University of Texas at Austin in 2014, shared ten life lessons from his Seal training experiences. One of those life lessons came to him as a result of one exceptionally difficult training exercise, where he and the other potential Seals were marched into the “Mud Flats,” a swampy patch of terrain where the mud could engulf a person up to their neck. Here is what he had to say about that experience: “We spent 15 hours trying to survive the freezing cold mud, the howling wind and the incessant pressure to quit from the instructors. The mud consumed each man till there was nothing visible but our heads. The instructors told us we could leave the mud if only five men would quit, just five men and we could get out of the oppressive cold. Looking around the mud flat it was apparent that some students were about to give up. It was still over eight hours till the sun came up, eight more hours of bone chilling cold. The chattering teeth and shivering moans of the trainees were so loud it was hard to hear anything and then, one voice began to echo through the night, one voice raised in song. The song was terribly out of tune, but sung with great enthusiasm. One voice became two and two became three and before long everyone in the class was singing. We knew that if one man could rise above the misery then others could as well. And somehow the mud seemed a little warmer, the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away.” Admiral McRaven’s point was this: “If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.”
That story and lesson reminds me of another great story found in God’s Word. Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten by rods, thrown into a dark, dingy dungeon, and then put in stocks. What they did next is almost unbelievable!
“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” (Acts 16:25)
The lesson for us as Christians from the Seals, as well as from Paul and Silas, is clear: When you’re in mud (any difficulty) up to your neck, sing out in praise to God! Undoubtedly, the best place to do that is at church with other believers. It’s there that you are surrounded by other Christians, who unbeknownst to one another, may also be up to their necks in difficulties. Together, we can encourage and support one another.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)
Singing is commanded in scripture, it helps to build others up, it strengthens you for current and future trials, produces joy, and glorifies God!
“I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.” (Psalm 104:33)