Hope For The Helpless
Growing up as a young child, I had always heard people talk about their “JFK moment.” (To this day my mother swears that she remembers both exactly where she was and exactly what she was doing when she heard that John F. Kennedy was assassinated.) In my own youthful ignorance I was extremely dismissive of such a thought. The idea that a singular news event could be so impactful just wasn’t possible. But all of that changed for me on January 13, 1982. On that day I was 15 years old. Sure, I had my share of “problems” but life was still innocent. Life was still simple. Tragedy didn’t yet register on my radar screen. On that day I had just returned from another long day at school and all I had on my mind was two things, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and another rerun of “The Flintstones.” Having made my sandwich, I slumped down into the recliner and turned on the TV. Much to my surprise Fred barely had time to shout out his customary “yabba dabba doo” before my regularly scheduled afternoon diversion was interrupted by a breaking news story.
Air Flight Florida 90 had crashed into the 14th Street Bridge that crossed the Potomac River just outside Washington, D.C. Within a matter of minutes all but the tail of the plane had become completely submerged in the icy water. The likelihood that anyone had survived seemed completely impossible. But slowly 6 passengers worked their way to the surface and began a desperate struggle for survival in the freezing water. Unable to change the channel, I was completely mesmerized by the entire event as it unfolded before me on live TV. I watched as a rescue helicopter finally appeared on the scene and began the heroic effort of rescuing the people. Almost immediately the helicopter dropped a life ring down to the struggling passengers in order to pull them to safety. I remember watching as they pulled the first man who grabbed the ring to safety. I remember watching the rescue chopper return and again drop the life ring a second time.
But this time something totally unexpected happened. The second man who caught the life line handed it away. That’s right. He gave away his chance at safety for the sake of someone else. Those of us who lived during that time period probably remember the now classic video footage. The “sixth passenger” would give away that life ring two more times before he finally disappeared beneath the water. All told he had spent 29 minutes in the water. In time his body would be recovered and coroners would pronounce that he had been the only passenger to actually drown. He would later be identified as Arland D. Williams Jr. (that same bridge is now named after him beacuse of his sacrificial act of courage on that fateful day).
That is the story that immediately came to my mind while reading Job 5 this morning, particularly when I came to that small phrase in verse 16. In fact, that verse and the images of Arland Williams handing off the life ring have been replaying through my mind throughout the entire day. “So the helpless has hope,…” I find tremendous comfort in that truth. Most of life’s tragedies are unexpected. Sure, there are those times when we have some sense of expectancy and even a tiny window for preparation but more times than not the trials and tribulations that befall us come with no warning. It’s the spouse who simply packs up and leaves. It’s the teenager whose bed is still empty in the morning. It’s the annual physical that brings back a horrible diagnosis. It’s the phone call at 3 am in the morning. It’s the car that runs the red light, the pregnancy that is suddenly cut short, or the boss that informs us the company is making cutbacks. Like the passengers on Air Flight 90 we suddenly and without warning find ourselves in a struggle for survival, desperately fighting just to keep our heads above water.
Fortunately, during such troubling times we are not alone. We may be helpless but the situation is not hopeless. Just like the surviving passengers on that unforgettable day we too have Someone who hands to us the life-line of safety. Take heart. The helpless do indeed have hope. Our God will never fail us. His faithfulness remains constant even in the most inexplicable of trials. All around is the confusion and pain of our hurtful situation but yet there He remains, right beside us in the very midst of the chaos and turmoil. God will never abandon us. He will never forsake us. And He will never leave us to drown in the aftermath of life’s unexpected sufferings.