Louie Zamperini did a lot of daring things in his life. As I devoured the pages of Unbroken, which chronicles the story of his life, I found myself continually amazed that the book is nonfiction. How could one person bravely withstand so many hardships…and live to tell about it?
As a bombardier in World War II, Louie valiantly embarked on missions in the Pacific, knowing that his craft could be shot down at any moment by Japanese planes or face the equally dangerous prospect of mechanical failure over the vast ocean. But his battles in the war were only the beginning. He survived a fiery plane crash. He fended off sharks with his bare hands. He faced starvation, extreme heat, and enemy fire. He endured emotional and physical torture in a POW camp.
But in my mind, none of those things, heroic as they are, constitute his most daring act.
No, his most daring act was that he hoped.
Louie hoped when it was ludicrous, possibly even insane, to keep on hoping. Every time something good comes his way and you think he’ll finally get his break, things blow up in his face. Yet somehow he never gives up hoping.
When the few chocolate bars—the only food left for the three men stranded on the raft—was scarfed down in a single sitting by one of his fellow survivors, Louie didn’t give up hope.
When their precious bait was snatched up by greedy sharks, he didn’t give up hope. When he managed to grab a large seabird with his bare hands and the meat turned out to be inedible, he didn’t give up hope.
When the plane that flew overhead turned out to be enemy aircraft instead of their salvation, he still didn’t give up hope—not even when the plane opened fire and their raft became riddled with bullet holes.
It wasn’t long before Louie’s friend and fellow survivor Mac gave up. But still Louie held on:
Given the dismal record of raft-bound men, Mac’s despair was reasonable. What is remarkable is that [Louie], who shared Mac’s plight, didn’t share his hopelessness….It had not yet occurred to him that he might die.
Yes, this was Louie’s most daring act: he hoped against all odds, against all evidence to the contrary.
At first blush, the book of Lamentations seems to be strictly a chronicle of sorrow and hopelessness. Jerusalem, God’s chosen city, and even the holy Temple have been destroyed. The people have been taken into captivity at the hands of the Babylonians. As the prophet Jeremiah looks bleakly into the future, he is consumed with grief:
For all these things I weep;
tears flow down my cheeks.
No one is here to comfort me;
any who might encourage me are far away….
I have cried until the tears no longer come;
my heart is broken.
My spirit is poured out in agony.
—Lamentations 1:16; 2:11
This is pretty much what you’d expect from a book with a name like Lamentations, what you’d expect from someone who is mourning the desolation of his beloved city. The shocking part—the daring part—comes out of nowhere, in chapter 3. In the midst of the prophet’s laments, he suddenly does a 180 and bursts out with an incredible yet:
Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”
Like Louie, the prophet dared to hope when those around him could see only despair.
Today I pray that you will make the daring decision to hope. Against all odds. Against all evidence to the contrary.
May you have hope that your tragedy will end but that the Lord’s love never will.
May you have hope that the morning will come again, and so will his mercies.
May you have hope that his faithfulness is greater than whatever struggle you’re up against.
And when all hope is gone, may you have hope that he will plant new hope in your soul again.
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.