During World War II Ernest Gordon, a native of Scotland and formerly Dean of the Chapel at Princeton University, was stationed in Sumatra when it was captured by the Japanese. He managed to escape in a sailboat with eight others, but after 24 days on the Indian Ocean they were recaptured by the Japanese navy.
For three years they did forced labor on the infamous “Railway of Death” in the jungle between Thailand and Burma, a jungle filled with disease, starvation, and death. His experiences are chronicled his book, Through The Valley Of The Kwai.
As history shows, the Japanese were especially cruel to their prisoners. The death rate was very high. Gravely ill with a tropical disease, he was placed in the “Death Ward” designated for those who were not expected to survive. What do you do in a situation like that? Ernest Gordon said, “You do what we did—pray for a miracle.”
There were two orderlies to care for all of them, a Methodist, Dusty Miller, and a simple gardener from London, Dinty Moore, a devout Roman Catholic. They had very little time to care for the sick. As Ernest Gordon said, “They were kept busy carrying out and burying the dead.”
But the miracle happened. In the words of Ernest Gordon: “God didn’t send a conquering army to deliver us. The miracle was that we found that God was with us. We felt his presence and knew he was near.”
Isn’t that exactly the kind of miracle that is needed in your life and mine? To know beyond the shad- ow of a doubt that God is with us no matter what? And the good news is that God meets that need for all of us. We can say with the Psalmist, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for THOU art with me.” Indeed, as the poet assures us, “Closer is he than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.”
In his book Alone, Admiral Richard E. Byrd told of the loneliness he experienced during his expedition to the South Pole. He found a way to deal with the problem. He wrote, “I solved it by changing my thoughts. When negative thoughts began to crop up in my mind, I repulsed them and instead filled my mind with thoughts of the presence of God. Suddenly, I had a feeling of confidence and quietness within. The outer situation was still the same; it was just as desperate, but it didn’t look as difficult. Something had happened inside my mind.”
It can be so for you and me.
“God is in every tomorrow,
Therefore I live for today;
Certain of finding at sunrise
Guidance and strength for the day,
Power for each moment of weakness,
Hope for each moment of pain
Comfort for every sorrow,
Sunshine and joy after rain.” Clyde Nichols is minister emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years. He writes a religious column for several newspapers