Americans are a deeply spiritual people. There have been a lot of times, as a chaplain, I have been talking with a person and they ask a question, which on the surface seems very practical, but on later reflection I realized that it was actually deeply spiritual. The family member asking what caused the death of their loved one really was expressing a deeper cry, “Why did they have to die?” This is a deep spiritual question coming from the heart. And if you are gentle with peoples’ hearts, I have found that they will trust you with the most sacred parts of their lives. As chaplains we may be called to lean into and walk with people during the worst times of their lives. And only by listening to the deeper heart cry will we hear these questions. Listen carefully. They may be testing you to see if you are really listening and if they can trust you with more. Here are some topics people may be really asking about.
Purpose. Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? Why am I at this place of hurt at this time? Why did they have to die? Why did they leave me?
Forgiveness. Can I really be forgiven for what I did? Can I forgive the people who hurt me? What does forgiveness really look like?
Justice. Is there really a right and wrong? Who sets those standards? Why do people who do wrong get away with it?
Love. What is love? Where can I find love? Why does my heart hurt so much?
Help. My life is out of control. Who can help me?
Truth. Society says that truth is relative, but that doesn’t seem right or fair. What is true?
Happiness. Where can I find it? Why do I find no joy in life?
Hope. Where is hope? I feel empty. Everything is falling apart. Where is hope for my life? Where is hope for people to act right in our society?
These questions will never be answered in a course at our police or fire academy. These are questions from deep within the spirit. As a chaplain, and a person of faith, we have something to say about these questions because of our spiritual outlook. But for a lot people who are in that place of despair these answers are not easily found. Their world has been rocked to the core and their worldview no longer matches up with the reality around them. It no longer gives them the answers they need. This is where it takes a person with a gentle spirit to come and walk with them, help them carry burdens, and offer them hope through deeds and sometimes words. A person of faith can help others lift their voices as the psalmist did and say, “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” (Psalm 4:1). Chaplain Chris Wade President South Carolina Public Safety Chaplains Association