I recently spoke in Oklahoma City to a variety of law enforcement and first responders from around Oklahoma. Putnam City Baptist Church was kind enough to host the event and we took advantage of their hospitality by packing the sanctuary. I wish more churches followed their example and got hands-on with their communities on a regular basis. Kudos to Putnam City Baptist Church.
In attendance, in addition to the many law enforcement officers and other first responders, were their Chaplains, more than a few of whom approached me privately during the breaks and after the talk to say how much they appreciated and had needed to hear my message. Too often people put their heads in the sand from the hard questions of faith, yet these are the very questions left unanswered that can haunt chaplains and other caregivers who minister to those stepping foot into hell on a daily basis.
They hear the toughest questions:
Where is God when a child is burned to death? Was this part of some “plan”?
Where is God when a family on the way to church dies in an auto accident? Did God answer their prayers?
What is the meaning of a child raised by drug addicts who is starved to death after living an entire life filled with misery?
And on they can go. Regardless of well rehearsed answers and reasoning to tough questions, year after year of facing these horrors can leave even Chaplains feeling like their comfort and guidance rings hollow. It is a hollowness and despair that eats away at one’s soul.
You Are Not Alone!
What was it I said in my talk that the Chaplains struggling with their own faith and doubts responded to?
Something simple, yet powerful: You are not alone!
Even in your pain, never forget that we all suffer, even the one who came to take away our eternal suffering.
“My God, my god, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
Pain isolates us, but it is in our pain that we have the opportunity to share the most personal of connections with one another. In pain, life becomes very simple and we focus on the questions that really matter – What is the purpose of life? What is the meaning of my life? Where am I going and where will it end? Do I have something to live for, or is it all meaninglessness?
Here in the dark, you are not alone. Breathe and be still, you are almost in communion with a fuel that makes life rage with purpose and intensity.
Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!
Revise your priorities, simplify, help another, allow yourself to become vulnerable and take ownership of the fact that you were never really alone, asleep maybe, but never alone. Look around you, so many muddling through life, hiding their despair. They need you! Be an example of one who rises from their slumber and begins to live with deep meaning and purpose.
As you look through the darkness what do you see? What things become clear to you — family, a lover, a journey, forgiveness and making amens, opening scripture or stepping into a temple of faith? Focus on this image and follow what draws you without distraction. Let it lead you to a brighter light and constantly remind yourself that we make this life matter one decision at a time.
Even the strongest of us can be overcome by feelings of hopelessness and despair. Even the most grounded can feel like they are failing. Never forget to care for the caregivers and remind them that they are not alone, and if they ever doubt, get burned out, or just plain despair, you will walk with them to the other side.
We Find Life in Humility
Be the caregiver and embrace the broken among us. Focus like a laser and become the kind of person where an illumined spirit can overcome the darkest of circumstances. I’ll leave you with a hard verse to follow, but one that leads to freedom over the demons of life. Humble yourself in your pain and be free.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven