2017-02-10 / Chaplain's News

Obstacles and opportunities in a time of strife

By Chaplain (MAJ.) Doug Ochner
15th Regimental Signal Brigade

You may have heard the phrase, “A candle burns brightest before it goes out.”

On February 2, 1943, 4 chaplains on the United States Army Transport Dorchester gave their life jackets to others as their ship was sinking from a German U-boat torpedo hit. Perhaps they had relatively uneventful lives up to that point. They knew America needed chaplains to serve alongside its Soldiers heading to war in Europe and they volunteered. They volunteered.

All were between 30-40 years old. All studied at the chaplain school at Harvard. All knew they were volunteering for war and knew chaplains had the highest casualty rates of any branch in World War 1. Chaplain Fox, the oldest of them, served in World War 1 and received a Silver Star and Purple Heart. Still they volunteered.

None of them envisioned what would happen in those early hours of February 2.

How does a person prepare for such a thing? Certainly Soldiers update their DD93 form and perhaps create a will. But to mentally and spiritually prepare is another thing. I believe they lived in a state of preparedness. When they volunteered for service they knew they may have to give up their lives.

We may not be called to such acts as these four chaplains, but we are all called to be ready. When the sun is shining and the flowers are in bloom it doesn’t take much stamina or Hooah to enjoy life. It is when we are faced with obstacles and doubts we need inner strength. Proverbs 24:10 tells us, “If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength.” An obstacle, a time of trouble, is a test of our inner strength. They show us where we are and if we lack fortitude.

I’ve had more than a few experiences where I came up short. Instead of meeting a challenge I complained. Instead of patiently working through a problem I avoided it. Thankfully we often have multiple opportunities to grow. Instead of the quick, easy way out of a situation we can view obstacles as an opportunity for growth.

In the Friendship Chapel 11 a.m. contemporary service we are reading the book of Colossians. In the first chapter Paul prayed for them that they might be, “strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.” The obstacles Paul faced became opportunities as he faced them in God’s strength. He wanted those he loved to experience this.

If you find times challenging, or even if the clouds have parted and the sun is shining, I invite you to take part in one of our many opportunities to worship here on Fort Gordon. By doing so you will have the opportunity to be strengthened and to strengthen someone else. May God work your obstacles into opportunities for growth.

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