As firefighters, we understand that no other words on the radio bring more intensity and emotion than these: “May Day, May Day…”
Yet, we also know that the rescue of our own is often the most difficult and least successful in some instances due to the obstacles we face in order to rescue them. We understand it takes numerous firefighters to rescue one and the effort is not as the acronym implies as “Rapid.”
But what about when we see those around us heading for trouble?
What about when we see their pain, their suffering, and yet despite our efforts they refuse our help?
Why is there a trend of others suffering in our world today?
Not just a physical suffering but one of despair, anxiety, depression, and many people seem to be constantly at war with one anyone who disagrees with them. Yet we claim to be a peaceful people. Why is it that in a nation so prosperous, seemingly lacking nothing, we are divided and seem to be in a sense of inner conflict with not our enemies but one another and even ourselves?
The fire service is not exempt from this, as we often see “the brotherhood” attacking one another over tactics, matters of opinion, and even making personal attacks on our own. How hypocritical of us yet therein lies a deeper problem for us to ponder.
Consider the profound wisdom of Tim Clinton:
“Interestingly, as today’s prosperous generations search for purpose, meaning and value, many are experiencing a pervasive sense of emptiness and isolation. And why shouldn’t they? In a world flooded with distresses like father absence, abuse, violence, marital discord, and emotional problems there is a natural epidemic of escapism through consumerism, drugs, alcohol, sex, and suicide. Earnest Becker accents this thought concluding ‘Modern man is drinking or drugging himself to death…or he is shopping which is the same thing” (Tim Clinton, p.4-Caring for People God’s Way).
We see a world full of every type of material or physical pleasure available to us yet these numbers confirm Dr. Clinton’s wisdom that we are not at peace as we seek escapism:
• 6.7 % or 15 million Americans suffers from depression
• 40-50% of American marriages will end in divorce (Firefighter divorce rates are as high as 70% in some states)
• 24.6 million Or 9.4% had used an illicit drug in the last month (alcohol and substance abuse is on the rise among firefighters).
• And approximately 40 million Americans look at pornographic material daily (This is an increasing problem in the fire service as well).
• Suicide is becoming the leading cause of death among young adults in America today (ages 25-44). We lost more brothers and sisters in the fire service last year to suicide than in the Line of Duty.
With this overwhelming evidence in front of us what is the source of our emptiness?
Why is it that we are not at peace?
Why are we using such unhealthy coping mechanisms to attempt to deal with the trials of life?
As firefighters, we often are guilty of rescuing others but refuse to reach out for help because of our own pride. We feel ashamed of our problem and don’t want anyone to know. We often push this problem down, refusing to deal with it, and it becomes a cancer to our souls. Then the failure to deal with it begins to cause collateral damage in other parts of our lives.
Whether you believe in God or not it doesn’t negate the fact that all of the answers we seek neglect the One that will truly heal us. It is paramount for us to note that this problem is not a physical, emotional, or psychological one; it is a spiritual one and can only be healed by the One who took upon our punishment so we may have peace:
No other name has brought more peace and more conflict…
No other name has more literature or evidence supporting His existence yet He is denounced as either a false teacher or an “opiate of the people.”
No other name has the power to save us as “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.” (Acts 4:12) Yet no other name is more attacked by those He actually died to save.
Yet no other name is more neglected, more abused, and more evicted from our society than the name of Jesus. Why is this so?
Consider with me for a moment the words of Jesus…
For those who carry heavy burdens: “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
For those who mourn: “Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4).
For those who are anxious: “Cast all your anxiety upon Him, For He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
For those who feel alone: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5).
For those who have been tempted: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.” (Matthew 4:1).
And for all those who feel that God has forsaken them, even Jesus cried out on the cross as He was dying: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
And the ultimate reason for us all to look to Jesus is to remember that:
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life” (John 3:16).
We must realize that the source of our emptiness, our anxiety, our struggle is a cross shaped scar upon our hearts that only Jesus can heal. He has done the work, paid the price, and “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
We often try everything to heal this brokenness except Jesus. We try healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms only to find ourselves still empty. We often come to the end of ourselves before we come to the beginning of God. We fall broken on our knees and cry out in anguish and even shaking our fist at Him when He has been there the entire time pleading for us to let Him in. Then we begin the search for Him but we only do so when our hearts are sincere:
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
And what do we find? Do we find prosperity, pleasure, and all our problems go away?
We find something even greater. We find peace. Peace amidst the storm, knowing that God is with us. We find reassurance knowing that He will never leave us. We find Joy knowing that we are forgiven despite our past. And we find new opportunity in this hurting world as we go and share the message we have received.
Thus, as we go out into our daily lives let us look upon our struggles with a new found strength. A strength that doesn’t fail us because it isn’t our own. A strength that says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). A strength that tells us each and every day that we are loved, we are forgiven, and that He wants us to share this life changing message with others no matter how much they assail, object, or persecute us. We will love as He loved, through the pain!
May we all seek Him and be found today,
In Jesus name I pray,
Andy J. Starnes