In the early afternoon of May 27, 1943, a 26-year-old Army bombardier sat nervously aboard a bomber plane named Green Hornet. To the dismay of its reluctant crew, the rickety Army Air Forces B-24 had been commissioned to carry out a search and rescue mission, near the remote South Pacific island of Palmyra, in the midst of World War II.
Moments later, the crew’s worst fears were realized when both of the plane’s left engines cut out, and the Green Hornet began spiraling toward the ocean below. Amazingly, the young bombardier and two fellow crew members survived the ensuing crash. But what followed can only be described as “Hell on Earth.”
Now lost at sea, the men lay helplessly on a pair of two-foot by six-foot life rafts they had strung together in makeshift fashion. Adrift in the middle of 65 million square miles of ocean, the men were subjected to the alternating discomfort of searing sun and bone-chilling nights, along with the constant, unwelcome companionship of ravenous Mako sharks. With his sustenance limited to the occasional albatross and small fish that he could catch with his bare hands, the bombardier dwindled to just 65 pounds. After 33 days, one of the trio died. On the 47th day, the bombardier and his remaining companion were rescued… by the enemy. For the next two years, the bombardier was held captive in a series of Japanese POW camps where he endured unthinkable physical and mental torture at the hands of his captors. For years afterward, he struggled with terrifying flashbacks and bitterness from the experience and sought refuge in alcohol to suppress his demons.
For those who may not recognize this story, it’s the true account of Louis “Louie” Zamperini, popularized in author Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 novel, “Unbroken.”
Few, if any, among us will ever endure anything resembling the horrors that Louie Zamperini faced during – and after – his time in captivity. But we all encounter challenges that test our limits – and our faith. Serious health issues, relationship problems, job loss, addiction, and money woes, in the absence of faith, can all cause us to tumble into despair. And when we are in the crosshairs of these present-day issues, we can all-too-often be left wondering what is left of our tomorrow.
As is so often the case, however, we can be comforted in the knowledge that whatever we are facing today, it is temporary. God has something better for us.
As Jesus assures us in the Gospel of John, today’s tribulations are not our eternal state.
1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
With faith in God, we discover the key to something even more comforting than hope. We unlock the doorway to realizing that whatever we are facing today is only temporary. When we accept Christ as our Savior, we are promised eternal life with him.
Fortunately for Louie Zamperini, his story did not end with the struggles he faced following his release from captivity. Shortly before his death in 2014, at the age of 97, Zamperini discussed his reluctant journey to faith in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network.
“They say there’s no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole,” Louie said, referencing the well-known aphorism about seeking a higher power in times of trouble. “Well you can multiply that a few times on a raft.”
In fact, Zamperini said he prayed often during his time lost at sea, and later in captivity. Still, he had not accepted Christ as his Savior. It was only after reluctantly attending a crusade by evangelist Billy Graham in 1949 that Louie came to faith. “Here I was preferring my rotten life to the light. Then I started having a flashback to the life raft and prison camp, all those thousands and thousands of prayers, ‘God spare my life through the war, and I’ll seek you and serve you.’ I kept thinking I came back from the war alive, and I never even thought about those prayers. I never tried to keep one prayer.”
That evening, Louie gave his life to Christ. The next day, as he read from the Bible, he felt a visceral change. As Hillenbrand wrote in “Unbroken,” “In a single, silent moment, his rage, his fear, his humiliation and helplessness had fallen away. That morning, he believed, he was a new creation.” In the years that ensued, Louie overcame his demons and even returned to Japan to forgive the captors who subjected him to unconscionable torture during the war.
Louie’s remarkable story demonstrates God’s unbroken promise: Whether in this life or the next, we can be assured that our faith will be rewarded with eternity in his light — in heaven.
Have you ever suffered troubles so deep that you became convinced they would be permanent? Knowing what we’ve learned during this week’s portion of the “Better” series, how would you act differently today?
What steps can you take to keep God present and remember that through his Son, we are offered room in the Father’s home?
To whom can you provide the comfort of knowing that our troubles of today are not our forever destiny? If you know someone who is hurting, reach out to them today.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for all the experiences you grant me in this life – both good and bad – and for your assurance that my current situation is not my forever destiny. I ask that you provide me the wisdom to trust in you always, particularly in troubling times, and the devotion to take comfort in your heavenly promise of eternity with you. Amen.
This post was written by Todd Romain. Todd is a regular contributor to and editor of the LivingItOut Bible Study.
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