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This ministry focus paper develops a strategy for building spiritual resilience in Marines affected by combat and operational stress. It employs a spiritual discipline training seminar designed to build the resilience attributes of contentment, peace, restoration, security, grace, and joy as illustrated in the twenty-third Psalm. The paper argues that Marines who understand and apply six selected spiritual disciplines will experience a measurable decrease in combat stress symptoms and a measurable increase in spiritual resilience. Furthermore, this spiritual resilience will provide a measure of healing from the destructive effects of current combat stress exposure and protect them against the effects of future exposure to combat stress. The thesis was tested on Marines assigned to Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

Based on resilience research and a thorough examination of Scripture, this paper presents a theology of spiritual resilience with specific focus on the six spiritual resilience attributes of Psalm 23. These attributes have been paired with specific spiritual disciplines selected to develop the attributes based on theological conclusions drawn from this study. The disciplines include Scripture study for building contentment, meditation for developing peace, confession that leads to restoration, prayer that fosters security, service that inspires grace, and celebration that elicits joy. This strategy has employed these disciplines in a two-day seminar that includes pre-seminar and post-seminar assessments in order to analyze the effects of this approach.

This paper concludes that the practice of spiritual disciplines reduces the symptoms of combat and operational stress and increases spiritual resilience. However, additional research may be required to determine the long-term effectiveness of this strategy particularly the preventative aspect of this approach for those in combat. Based on this study, the project has potential for wider application beyond the military community to civilian churches, particularly those who offer ministry to former military members and their families.

Content Reader: Dr. Jeff Saville, DMin

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

First Advisor

Saville, Jeff

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Marine Corps; Psalms, XXIII; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Church work with military personnel; Spiritual formation; Military chaplains


Missions and World Christianity


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March 2018

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