KEY SCRIPTURE Joshua 1:9
Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
As a part of life, troubles come. But now and then, we are confronted by catastrophes. Often to the point, we may feel like giving up. We cannot muster the courage and strength to go any further. We're defeated inside and have no idea of the length of this struggle. It has sapped us mentally, physically and spiritually. This time, it's as if we're lost. We want to lay down and render our spirit to the Almighty.
God commands us to shake off the conquered spirit, even in our worst disasters, and let Him reign again over our minds and hearts through purpose. He is with us in the journey. He says, "Keep going. Keep fighting your inner feelings, keep rejecting those thoughts of defeat."
17-year-old Julianne Koepcke can teach us about the battle for survival. Although not a Christian, her will to survive a ten-day nightmare amidst a Peruvian forest is an educational class for every believer.
On Christmas Eve 1971, Julianne boarded a plane bound for Lima, Peru, with her mother. However, in full flight, the aircraft was struck by lightning after entering a dark stormy cloud formation, causing it to disintegrate. In a matter of seconds, Julianne rapidly plummetted three kilometres into Peru's deep jungle while still buckled to her airline seat, smashing through trees, branches and underbrush.
Everybody else on board the plane, including her mother, died in the crash or while awaiting rescue.
With a broken shoulder, badly gashed arm, and now suffering from severe insect bites, Julianne commenced her trek to escape her own death.
Battling the jungle's hot days and cold nights, tiredness, a maggot-infested arm, fear, anxiety and depression, she fought for ten days before being found. Her clothing? A thin-strapped mini-skirt and one shoe.
When we enter disastrous times, we don't know how long it will be before we reach a safe place at the other end. The trouble is, it is within those dark jungles of our circumstance we give up. We lose hope, and everything inside us expires. We don't believe there is an end to our struggle.
So, how can a 17-year-old possibly teach Christians going through their own jungles of trauma? The maxim of Never Giving Up!
Despite knowing of the jungle's deadly beasts and creatures, Julianne kept moving forward.
Sometimes we forget that God is with us in the journey. We think, "If only I can get to God, I'll be safe!" Yet, He is with us in every step of our trek. Hebrews 13:5b reiterates our key scripture. "for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
One provocative point is that Julianne could hear rescue planes overhead for days but could not see them due to the dense forest canopy. Nor could they see her. But she knew they were there, and that helped as inspiration.
A Christian's 'rescue planes overhead' is knowing the Father's love for us and recalling His words of encouragement and hope. Jesus died and rose again to ensure we have hope in all situations.
Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."
Isaiah 40:31, "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
Psalm 121:7-8a, "The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore."
That jungle was full of creatures of death, such as snakes that looked like tree branches, yet not one of them touched Julianne. The river, in which she spent much of her daily slog, had its evil, yet she travelled safely through. She may not have looked to God in those times, but God looked to her.
We learn lessons from all people, not only other Christians. Never Give Up is a primary principle of the Christian life and a driver of our overcoming spirit. If you have forgotten how to stir up your grit and determination, I recommend reading a summary of Julianne's story here.
Dear Lord, I have been through many battles, some so overwhelming my spirit was deflated, and I was beaten. But then I read where your warriors and followers of old got through their fears of what lies ahead, and it replenished my soul. I stood up and kept walking into the unknown renewed.
Photo by Ulrike Langner