Hacksaw Ridge: What Desmond Doss Taught Me

Hacksaw Ridge is the true story of a man named Desmond Doss and his perseverance in doing good during WWII despite all the opposition.

Kaylin and I are generally against seeing rated R movies. If it’s rated R, it’s usually for good reason, and that usually means that at least a portion of the movie contains material that isn’t glorifying to God. However, there are some rare movies, like Hacksaw Ridge, that should be considered despite the R rating. In this case, the majority of the reason it was rated R is because of the extremely true-to-life depictions of war that can make some people very queasy. There is also a decent amount of cussing, but I don’t think it’s something that can truly be avoided when trying to make a realistic war film.

Anyway, the reason we were compelled to watch this film (we actually watched it twice) is because of the heroic story of Desmond Doss. You see, Desmond Doss had a couple life experiences that brought him very close to killing someone, so he made a vow to God to never carry a gun again. WWII started gaining momentum, though, and he decided to enlist in the Army to try to be a medic. He figured he’d be saving lives instead of taking them and that would mean he wouldn’t need to use a gun, because whether or not he believed the 10 commandments applied to war, he did believe that the words of Jesus applied: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34). But his superiors in the Army had other plans. Doss’ superiors in the Army believed that Doss’ refusal to bear a weapon was an act of cowardice and tried very hard to get him to quit the Army or get him convicted of disobeying orders to train with a gun. In the end though, he was not convicted because there were laws against forcing a conscientious objector to bear arms against his will.

Even after getting all the way through training and being deployed to Japan, though, his comrades and superiors scoffed at him and didn’t trust him. He leaned on God, though, and once the horrific battles started, he proved his worth. His division ended up retreating as they were getting overrun by the Japanese, but Doss didn’t leave. God had called him to save lives, so that’s what he did. He snuck around the battlefield, avoiding the Japanese soldiers and pulling injured men to safety. In the end, he saved the lives of 75 men due to his courage and the strength God provided.

In the opening sequence of the film, you hear Doss reading Isaiah 40:28-31 aloud in the background.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31

This is an especially relevant passage for him. Desmond was awake all night rescuing people, and lowering them down a cliff to safety. His muscles would have ached immensely, and his hands were bleeding as they were worn down by the rope, and he would be extremely tired due to the late hour. While everyone else had given up, he had trusted and leaned on God, who gave him the strength to continue on doing what he was called to do. Desmond truly loved people the way God loves us; when he was tired and barely able to stand, he wasn’t coming up with excuses to be able to stop. Instead he was continually praying that God would let him save just one more person.

Trust in the Lord and he will give you the strength needed to persevere through your trials. Click To Tweet

Despite the violence and profanity, I highly recommend this movie (for mature audiences), if only as a great example of a person of faith. I wish I had the strong faith that Desmond Doss had. I wish that, in the times of my greatest weakness, I could just trust that God would renew my strength so I could carry on doing his will. Lord forgive us for our lack of faith. I pray that your Spirit would work in your people so that stories like Desmond’s would be commonplace and the love displayed among your people would open the eyes of those who don’t know you. Amen.

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