It was 1983. Russia had shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007, killing all aboard and leading to worldwide tension. On September 26th, handsome young Lieutenant-Colonel Stanislav Petrov was in the commander’s seat in the underground early warning bunker south of Moscow. He expected a boring night when nothing would happen. And then it did! A warning light flashed and, in red letters on a white background, his computer screen screamed “LAUNCH. LAUNCH. LAUNCH.” Sirens pierced the night, indicating the US had just gone to war.
When a US missile could reach Russia in 12 minutes, seconds were critical.
Petrov broke out in a cold sweat and his face paled. But he kept his nerve. Other screens were not showing the flash of an inter-continental ballistic missile leaving a US silo. Could this be a computer glitch rather than the real thing? Other warnings flashed onto the screen, but they didn’t make sense. They indicated an attack of three, four, five missiles, rather than a mass preemptive strike of overwhelming force. He decided to wait. After ten interminable minutes the warnings stopped and there was no attack. Petrov’s screen had lied, and his decision to wait stopped what could have been World War III.
Pastor Rene told us this story this weekend and talked of how often, through our culture, the media, and advertising, our screens lie to us, telling us we will be happy “if only …” We’ll be popular if we drink this beer, or wear these sneakers, or use that perfume.
What if instead, we took time to thank God for the many blessings He has given each of us, gifts from the mundane to the sublime, from life itself, family and friends, beauty, laughter brought by a loved pet, and food most of us can access easily. We’re not necessarily told to give away all the blessings we have, but to be content with them, to say no to the lies that tell us we need “a little more”.
I struggle with this at times, wanting something to make me stronger, thinner, happier. Do you? Do we even recognize the lies when they bombard us?
I Timothy 6:6-8 says “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. So if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
Contentment happens when we recognize and thank God for the good gifts He gives us rather than looking for what we’re missing. I had significant pain this week, following my recent total shoulder replacement. I can complain and say “I wish my body was stronger.” Or I can recognize the blessing of being able to have this surgery and look forward to significant healing as time (and therapy) goes on. I thank Him for my physical therapist who “hurts me good”; for my husband who ensures I’m tucked in comfortably to sleep; for my surgeon; for a place to rest and renew and exercise; and so much more.
And when I am content, I am also more willing to express my gratitude by being generous with my time and resources, to help others in need.
For what are you thankful today? And, if you’re believing a lie that says you need “more,” how will you counteract that with the truth?