I am reading the book “Unbroken”. The story of Louie Zamperini from Olympic runner to life-raft castaway and POW in a Japanese labour camp.
I was at the stressfully visual bit where sharks are swimming around and around their life raft. That’s “sharks” plural. Gives me the Hee-Bee-Gee-Bees. Louie and two other men were the only survivors of their B-24 bomber crash that killed 9 others. All they had in this vast nothing ness of ocean were two woefully unequipped, very small life rafts.
So there they were, stranded, no help coming, one week turned into two weeks, then three, then four …. and the entire time, sharks circled their raft, biding their time. They would strafe the bottom of the raft, their fins tickling the men’s bodies above them. When they grew weary of waiting, there was a day where the sharks jumped up out of the water and threw themselves into the raft, trying to grab a man to take back down into the ocean with them.
It took all three men to bat the sharks away with the oars to keep the raft afloat and their limbs intact. They fought all day. It was so heart-thumping that I read it aloud to the kids on a car trip. Yep. Because I like giving my kids nightmares. Jesse was all over it, saying “read some more Mum, read some more!” Tim was squirming, not loving sharks or plane crashes or being hungry for 47 days.
Louie had prayed a lot on that raft. There are no atheists in fox holes, as the saying goes. India wondered, along with me, why didn’t God just make the sharks go away?
Why didn’t He make the sharks go away?
It suddenly struck me that Louie needed those sharks. The sharks actually kept them alive.
Without the mental effort Louie devoted to working out how to defeat the sharks (eat them instead of waiting to be eaten), Louie and the other men would have lain there consumed with the mental helplessness of knowing they were lost, alone, starving and likely to die. Without the physical fight against their marine-enemy, these would have been left to fight themselves, their own hopeless, self-destructive thoughts.
They needed this enemy because this enemy kept them fighting, sharp, alive.
I have said to God many times in the past “Lord, take away this awful, awful enemy! He’s attacking my son! Take this illness away! It’s so horrifyingly frightening! I can’t bear it! Please, if you love me, take it away!”
And He didn’t. He was with me, He gave me strength and peace and even joy in the presence of my enemies, but He didn’t take those enemies away.
He let me fight, He let me learn how to wield the sword of the Bible and prayer; He let me learn I was weak so I would lean on Him and get my strength from him. I don’t say it boastfully but to point to the truth: I became stronger with an enemy than I was without one. I learned a lot of humility, gained a little grace, and discovered treasures that can only be found in darkness. Others who love me watched, and can testify to it: the sharks made Kim a healthier, fitter, more mature, and more grace-filled person. While I hope I will never have to fight those sharks again, I am thankful for them.
Whatever your circling sharks, lovely friend, I pray you can look beyond their horrifying jaws, plant your feet firmly, swing your arms high and start beating them back. God hasn’t abandoned you. He’s making you into a mighty warrior.