Chaplain (Capt.) Samuel Olmos
Deputy North Community chaplain
Thanksgiving reminds me of a humble and simple time in our nation’s history, when the holiday began as a celebrated moment, when pilgrims met with the native locals to give thanks to God for simple blessings.
Christmas also reminds me of a time when a humble and simple child changed world history forever, a child who would grow up to be the savior of humanity for all those who would simply believe in him.
Thanksgiving and Christmas, as magical as these moments are for many of us, they carry a shipload of loneliness, hardship and sorrow.
The pilgrims fled England in search of religious freedom, and they found disease, famine and conflict with Native Americans in the new land. Jesus Christ, the blessed child of Christmas, would become a man and would willingly suffer a long, painful scourging before dying on the cross for the sins of humanity.
Yet, Christmas and Thanksgiving are holidays celebrated as a time for giving thanks and showing love. However, must sorrow and pain be the precursor to love and thanksgiving? Must there be a loss or deep hardship before we can learn to be grateful? Can we be truly appreciative of our world without life’s painful experiences?
For me, 2003 is remembered as my family’s perfect storm. Family members began dying in February, including a cousin, my brother-in-law of 25 years, my father, my oldest sister and finally, my second oldest sister.
My family came out of that stormy year broken and devastated. We wondered if life would ever return to normal.
The wonderful truth is, life did return to normal, but things would never be the same. I would never be the same. Like the pilgrims, I made it through the cold winter and came out of the other end stronger and with a new life perspective. But, I was never alone.
John 16:33 reminds us that trouble may come, but Jesus Christ is able to give us peace in the midst of the storm. But could the savior give me peace after losing my father, two sisters, a cousin and my brother-in-law? The answer is yes.
Even in the thick of that painful year, I experienced God’s comfort and peace. It was a peace that was intertwined with tears and pain, but it was peace.
Psalms 34:18 says that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. God comforted me during my deep sorrow and pain, and he can do the same for you.
Do I believe that sorrow and pain produce a more thankful person? Yes, undoubtedly, especially if we allow God to deal with our sorrow and pain. In doing so, God protects us from developing bitterness and guilt. It’s also clear to me that hardships give us a reason to celebrate life.
How much does an individual who has been lost in the forest for a few days appreciate the sight of loved ones, a glass of water, a warm bed and a hot shower? Hardships do produce appreciation.
This holiday season, appreciate loved ones like never before, for we do not know if we will have them next year. Take the time to worship and appreciate God, because like the Pilgrims realized, every good and precious gift comes from him.
It’s very difficult to have a bad attitude if we are busy appreciating life. Let us appreciate the magic of the season and all that was done to give us these holidays.