13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Heb 11:13-16).
My father was a WWII vet. He told my mother that there were two kinds of soldiers in his unit: those who frequented brothels, and those who wrote their sweetheart or fiancée every day.
On bases far away, or serving overseas, that's what kept some soldiers going. Having that to look forward to.
Having a woman who was waiting for them. Having a woman they were waiting to see again. Planning a life together.
Writing a letter to their sweetheart or reading a letter from their sweetheart. Hoping to see her again, face-to-face. Hoping to embrace. Hoping to pick up where they left off.
This is what many men ultimately fight for. For the folks back home. Having that to return to.
And that's like the life of faith. The waiting. The longing. Like letters to home or letters from home. Counting down the days before reunion.
Of course, many soldiers never made it back. Yearning for home, but dying far from home. They died unfulfilled in this life.
And I suppose this is one of the worst things about a civil war. Even if you survive, what if you go back home, only there's no home to go back to? When you go back, you find burned buildings. Makeshift graves of friends and family you left behind. They waved you good-bye. Hugs, tears, and kisses. That's the last time you saw them alive. While you were gone, the life you knew was blown to bits. Literally.
There's nothing left for you here. Nothing left to keep you here. Going back shows you there's nothing to go back to.
And that, too, is like the life of faith. Especially as the losses accrue. By faith we override what we can see and feel–putting our faith in what we can't see or feel. What we can see and feel is real, but ephemeral. What we can't see or feel is everlasting.