(ROCKWALL/HEATH, TX – March 29, 2015) Louie Zamperini tasted a heavenly peace as death approached. But he’d made a promise to God during his weeks of floating in a deteriorating raft, gazing at the vast ocean and starry skies. If the Creator of all this could save him from the dangers he faced—hunger, thirst, heat of day and cold of night, Japanese planes overhead and sharks beneath—he would serve him forever.
The sea did not swallow the former Olympic runner and World War II airman. Readers of Zamperini’s story, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, hoped his troubles would end when sailors hauled him into their boat. Instead, he spent two long years in wretched holes and brutal conditions of Japanese POW camps.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day,” wrote the Apostle Paul. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Cor. 4:16-17; ESV)
Zamperini’s afflictions, neither light nor momentary, seem to dispute the last part of that hopeful passage. Yet Paul had the credentials to address sufferings. The apostle survived stoning, beatings, and imprisonments. He was shipwrecked, adrift and in danger at sea, hungry, thirsty and cold. (2 Corinthians 6:4-5; 11:25-27)
Years ago, Billy Graham spoke to the question of suffering by drawing a line to represent eternity. He drew a dot on that line to show our earthly life.
Four years after the war, Louie needed an eternal perspective. He’d become a bitter, angry alcoholic. His wife begged him to go with her to hear a young evangelist preach the gospel message under a circus tent inLos Angeles. That night, Louie heard the 31-year-old Graham speak about earthly suffering and a loving God who knows the number of hairs on our head. The nearly broken man found the peace of God.
Through faith in Jesus Christ, Louie Zamperini overcame his crippling hatred of former captors. He lived a redeemed life, able to fulfill his promise to serve God. In 2014, just months before Unbroken opened in theatres, he went to meet his Savior. He was 97.
“For while we are still in this tent, we groan . . . that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Cor. 5:4)
By Blue Ribbon News guest columnist Patti Richter of Heath. Patti is a journalist who writes news and feature stories, book reviews and more for Christian publications. Read her Good Faith columns at BlueRibbonNews.com.
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