I recently read a book called, "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand. It isn't the type of book I would normally ready but some friends wanted to try a book club format for our social gatherings. I didn't even try to read the first book but thought I would at least put some effort in for the next time so I had a little clue what they were talking about.
The book is the story of Louis Zamperini who was an olympic runner. After World War 2 broke out he joined the military and worked as a bombardier. He ended up enduring a series of things that would have broken an ordinary man. His plane crashed over the Pacific and only he and 2 others survived, one died while they were stranded at sea. After over 40 days with few provisions and many challenges, they land on a Japanese occupied Island and are immediately captured. He spends the next few years in a series of abusive POW camps under inhumane conditions.
I do not like to read these kind of books because I do not like to be traumatized. I get the gist that there were human atrocities that occurred during WW2. Evil does exist and we need only review that part of human history, among many other parts, to be reminded of that reality.
What is different about this book from others like it is that somehow woven throughout the story of this mans trials is a thread of hope.
After the war, after being rescued and returning home he suffers from nightmares and dulls his pain and fears with alcohol. He is out of the POW camp but he is not free. Anger, bitterness, fear and an obsession with revenge rule his life. However, God had another plan for Louie and at an early Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles he gave his life to the Lord and was truly freed from his prison. The Lord took his anger and bitterness away. His obsession with revenge disappeared. We can't do that on our own, only God can do that.
What you see woven through this book is not a story of suffering but a story of hope. While his circumstances were unbelievable this is a story of God's presence, protection, provision and pursuit.
We often ask ourselves why God lets us suffer like that. If God really loved Louie why didn't he rescue him? Why did God let that happen? But the truth is there is Evil in the world, there is sin in the world. God has given us a free will and some exercise that will to impart evil on others. God may not have removed him from his circumstances but he did rescue him. Throughout the story you see how experiences Louie had before the war gave him survival skills for the very circumstances he would encounter. Fending off hungry sharks, knowing how far a bullet is lethal under water, even the thieving skills of his youth prepared him for survival in the camps. You see kind guards come along at just the right moment, secret communications to keep the mind sharp, just enough food, moments of reprieve and life despite deteriorating health.
I have thought a lot about this book and my own life. Honestly, I don't know if I would have had the will to keep living for so many years under those conditions. I don't know that I would have been able to maintain hope. And I am so thankful that God has not asked me to endure that level of suffering although I know around the world there are people who continue to do so.
But I have endured my own trials and watched those close to me endure their own. And I see the same hope in those trials as I read in Louie's. As I look back I can see God's presence woven into my story and in other's stories. Providing what I need when I need it.
When I started my year naming the word "watch" as my word of the year I had no idea how significant or important that would be. How much I would need to see Him at work and how encouraging it would be. I thought I would watch him continue to provide for us to stay in our house. I thought I would watch him do amazing things with my career. I thought I was only going to watch him do great things in my life this year.
I didn't imagine I would watch him weave a path through painful experiences. I didn't imagine I would watch him help me leave a second job, start a new very unstable career, watch him help me out of my house, watch him help friends and family through so many difficult and tragic events.
Yet through it all He was there. And He did work, I have seen him everywhere. And while it has been hard and not exactly what I would have written if I was writing my own story, I have never ultimately been disappointed in the stories God has written for me so far and I know this one is going to turn out great too.