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April Chaplain's Reflection

Portrait of Chaplain, Capt. Benjamin McEntire, with the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Jan. 10, 2013.
(National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Chaplain, Capt. Benjamin McEntire, from the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

"A Time for Hope"

We live in a world filled with discouragements, heartaches, and grief. For many, it can seem like that is all life is! Yet no matter the hardship, within each of us there is a
longing to see the challenges overcome and the griefs vanquished.

This month Christians and Jews all over the world will keep their respective holidays of Easter and Passover. These holidays establish the foundation of their respective religions. For Christianity it is founded upon the belief that Jesus rose again from the dead, which Easter celebrates, and Judaism upon the rescue of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, commemorated in the Passover. While these two stories speak of very different events and are believed to have occurred at radically different times in history, both speak to a basic human need--the need for hope.

The human need for hope is inescapable, for not only do we see it in our religions, we see it plainly in our movies and stories. Be it stories of brave heroes, athletes who never give in, or lovers who defy the odds to be together, there is something within the human psyche that responds to stories that remind us that good overcomes evil, persistence pays off, and that true love never fails. When we take in a story, we long to see the hero overcome the peril they face, to see the athlete defeat their rival in an epic competition, or the lovers come together when the odds were stacked against them. But notice that the stories that speak to us the most are not stories of heroes who easily overcome or of love that faces trials. Instead, what tends to stir our hearts the most are the stories where it looks like all is at a loss, but then something breaks through to kindle hope or win the day. We thrill when a hero returns in an hour of greatest need after a long absence, when the couple comes together when they'd almost given up, or when the team manages to pull together to win the game no one thought they'd win.

Why do such stories speak to us on such a deep level? I think part of it is because they DO teach us to hope. Famed author C.S. Lewis once said that fairytales do not teach children dragons exist, for children already know that. Instead, Lewis offered that fairytales teach children that dragons can be defeated. The same is true for our stories today. Whether it's an action flick where heroes overcome countless dangers to bring the bad guys to justice, or a romance where love conquers all, our stories tell us that with hope we can see good prevail and overcome the greatest of odds. After all, like Lewis said of telling children about dragons, no one needs to tell us that hardships exist. What we need are reminders that it's possible to be the hero who rises above them, or that good can triumph in spite of the odds. But why is it so important that we have things in our life that say hardships can be overcome? Because the only way we can ever overcome the challenges and disappointments in life is if we have hope.

The first thing I learned years ago in survival training was very simple: the number one thing you need to survive in the face of hardship is the will to live. But it doesn't stop there: to have the will to live you have to have hope that you can make it through whatever situation you're facing. As some of the amazing true stories of survival tell us, sometimes that kind of hope can seem completely irrational, yet by clinging to hope in spite of everything people have made it through. Might it be that sometime in our life we need to be reminded of that?

As we look at our world today, there are many things out there that can discourage us. For many of us, myself included, our lives have provided us with enough hardships that at times we've wondered if joy will come again. I've found that it's in those times where hope is needed the most. Where we find the hope we need can vary person to person, but ultimately we all need to find it somewhere.

As you have faced hardships, what has given you hope? Where have you found the courage to be the hero who overcame the odds, or the love to stay together in spite of everything that would tear the relationship apart? Perhaps you found the strength in yourself, through your faith, or through the support of loved ones. If you have a story of finding hope in your life, pass it on to others; you never know who might find the strength they need as a result of it.

If you're one of many who struggles to find the hope you need, the Chaplain Corps and the 169th Fighter Wing's Director of Psychological Health are here to help you find what you need to push through. You can reach the SCANG Chaplain Corps at 647-8265. Sometimes we find the hope we need when we take the risk of reaching out for help for the first time. Should you take that risk, we will be glad to listen to you and help you find what you need to overcome!