Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Lesson from Mario Sepulveda, Chile Mining Rockfall Incident Survivor

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. Timothy 1:7

About three weeks ago, an incredible rescue operation took place in a cooper and gold mine somewhere in the Atacama desert in Chile to save the lives of 33 miners who were trapped 2060 feet below the earth. It was such a happy-ending story since all the trapped miners were rescued.

But for 17 days after they were trapped and before their existence was confirmed by rescuers, the miners had the horrifying realization that they could all die painfully from starvation, from disease, from suffocation, or worst, from each other. These were the days that each of them had to face their worst fears.

Imagine that you were with these miners buried under the earth. Smell the damp and sickening odor of the soil all around you, hear the drop of water that fall to a puddle of mud nearby, feel the uncomfortable heat rising from the surface of the earth, look at the rock-sealed exit, and observe the distressed faces of your companions. How would you feel when it dawn on you that there’s no way out, and that the situation is now out of your control? Will you freak out? Will you accept your fate peacefully? Will you switch to survival-of-the-fittest mode? Or will you remain hopeful?

I believe the honest answer is, “I don’t know.” Our worst fears can make us do things that can even shock us. Think of the evil things that men are capable of during war time. Does the holocaust ring bell?

We don’t know (yet) the drama that surrounded the trapped miners during these harrowing 17 days. But the comment from one of the rescued miners, Mario Sepulveda, was quite revealing. He said, “I was with God, and I was with the devil. They fought, and God won.” He then added, “I grabbed God’s hand and never doubted that I will be rescued.”

Wow! Sepulveda may not be speaking from the physical perspective, meaning he didn’t actually see God and the devil, but from a spiritual perspective; he felt God’s presence, as well as, the presence of the enemy in his heart. Both made their pitch, he listened, switched sides from time to time, and finally, chose. All while buried under the earth.

When we are at our lowest, when reality contradicts our deep hopes and beliefs, that is when our faith is put to a hard testing. Yes, it was a test, a knee-shaking, hope-stealing test, indeed. And Sepulveda, and the rest of the miners showed the world how to pass the test.

When we are at our deepest trouble, when problems and life’s difficulties push us deeper than before, and when it seems that there is no way out, remember the miners. The successful rescue operation in Chile was not just a triumph of engineering, planning, and operation. But more importantly, it was the triumph of the collective human spirit over the gates of hell.

In the valley of death, fear will knock on our door. Not once or twice, but more often. And he won’t go away…unless…we allow our faith in God seal the door of our heart. Mario Sepulveda did it, and so can you and me.

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