Of the many hundreds of articles my late godly mother wrote, none has moved me as deeply as this one.
If you feel your life is an irreversible series of hardships and disasters, this article is for you.
“And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.” – Acts 27:44
It is possible for broken things in our lives to rescue us in the end.
Every time I read this story in the life of Paul the Apostle, as recounted by his companion and physician, Luke, the whole near-death experience comes alive in my imagination. I see it all: the storm and wind, the waves, the crumbling, fragmenting ship; I hear the cries of despair and anguish and the one, lone voice shouting, “Be of good cheer, for I believe God!” Luke says that miraculously all them reached land, by either swimming, hanging onto boards from the ship, or against all odds,” clutching only mere pieces of the ship. Can you imagine how terrifying that must have been? I can. A splintered piece of wood is not much to hang onto, but I would remind you again, they all reached land.
The Christian life has often been compared to a ship voyage in both song and verse. Paul talks about Christians who are “…tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine…” (Eph. 4:14). The great old gospel song, “Ship Ahoy” starts, “I was drifting away on life’s pitiless sea/And the angry waves threatened my ruin to be…” And I used to sing a rousing song of triumph by Ira Stanphill, that announced, “This old ship is tossing and turning/But I’m gonna make it through somehow.” It would seem to me, as in the story of Paul’s shipwreck, all reach that “heavenly shore” by the miracle of salvation through Jesus Christ, but some reach it clinging to broken pieces of their ship.
There are those who experience the ravages of broken health, so often the case in later life. At one time they were robust, vigorous, and untiring. Now they greet the nights with dread, and the mornings with foreboding. The normal winds and waves of life they handled quite well for so many years now seem unmanageable.
Others may suffer from a broken heart. Someone they loved was taken from them, either by distance or death. Or perhaps they were betrayed and cast aside by one in whom they placed great trust. The waves that sweep over them are filled with sadness and hurt; and they feel as bereft as Job, without family or friends.
Still others feel crushed with the aftermath of a broken reputation. They were sailing along in the breeze of praise and recognition, examples of usefulness and victory. Then came a gross “fall from grace.” Then the praise was turned to pity and the recognition to rejection, leaving only the sad epithet: “Their life is a shipwreck.”
Finally (and this is common after the last broken experience), there are those who suffer the agony of a broken faith, or a shipwrecked faith, as Paul refers to it in 1 Timothy 1:19. “What’s the use? Is any of it real? Once their faith was strong and their assurance complete, but now clouds of doubt sweep over their souls and minds. Disappointment in themselves and others has led to disappointment in God and mistrust in His love as well as His claims.
To all of these broken souls, I point us to our story, and the promise that they “escaped all safe to land.” God didn’t have to tell us that some reached there under better circumstances than others…but He did. I think He wanted those with broken health to know that God’s grace, mercy, and comfort of the Scriptures, would be enough to gently carry them the whole way home. He wanted saints with broken hearts to know they could cling to the Lover of their souls, who promised, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). And the baggage of a broken reputation can be thrown overboard in time, by repentance and forgiveness. Ask Rahab, Mary Magdalene, and Peter. Oh, and even broken faith can be revived and repaired! Don’t forget, Jesus referred to His own disciples at one point as “ye of little faith,” and even faith “as a grain of mustard seed” (Matt. 17;20) can move mountains!
There are those who seem to have a prosperous and sunny voyage all the way home, with few storms. But not many, I’ll wager. To the rest of us I say, those “broken pieces of the ship” in our lives are well able to buoy us all the way home to Glory.
Don’t lament them; latch onto them!
–Salle J Sandlin (1943-2017)