I love the story of Apollo 13, which was immortalized in the movie starring Tom Hanks. It details how NASA employees rescued three astronauts from certain death in outer space. As the story goes, the spaceship, Apollo 13, was put in peril when someone in the command center back in Houston called for them to stir the hydrogen tanks. It was a routine yet necessary maneuver performed on previous missions, always without a problem.” Unknown to Jim Lovell (played by Tom Hanks in the movie) and his team, there was a problem with the wiring. When Jack Swigert (played by Kevin Bacon) stirred the tanks, an explosion occurred that endangered not just the mission but also their lives.
Can you imagine being over two hundred thousand miles away from earth and anyone who could possibly help you? Or, that the ship, which protects your very life, has been damaged so badly that making it home alive is highly unlikely? It was certainly an unwanted chain of events the three astronauts and the folks at NASA had not anticipated. There were no contingencies for the challenges they faced. Making it back to earth alive was almost inconceivable.
In the movie, we see the good folks at NASA work around the clock as they discover that resolving one problem created another one. Gene Kranz, NASA Flight Director, played by Ed Harris in the movie, is best known for his famous quote, “Failure is not an option.” In a telling interview, he provided very insightful information about the three men chosen to crew the Apollo. While many people believed astronauts needed to be engineers or scientists who understood every part of the spacecraft and the moon, Gene wasn’t one of them. Gene felt the perfect first astronauts would be military test pilots. “Experimental” is a good word to describe the type of aircraft test pilots fly. After all of the analysis and theories are done and an aircraft is built, someone has to test it out. Someone has to be the first person to get into the cockpit and make sure the thing even flies. If it does, the pilot must coolly deal with whatever problems or malfunctions can—and will—occur miles above the ground. A test pilot’s main function, besides staying alive, is to gauge how well the aircraft performs according to the specifications of the manufacturer.
Gene understood the benefit of having scientists land on the moon, or the advantage of putting the ship in the hands of an engineer who knew every inch of it; however, even with all of their education and training, he didn’t know how well they would handle themselves when the pressure came. Pressure does strange things to people. He couldn’t trust them to perform admirably if everything that was supposed to go right went wrong. He needed people who knew how to handle unplanned and unwanted circumstances.
The wonderful news is that as followers of Christ, we have the same ability to handle adversity as these great men did; in fact, we may have an added advantage. The living God who parted the Red Sea, made the cripple walk, and resurrected Lazarus from the grave is able to help us, but we have to learn how to respond instead of reacting.
Maybe right now you are going through one challenge after another and you are asking yourself “Is anything good going to come out of this?” When you understand how God can use each challenge to build our faith and strengthen our ability to respond in times of crisis, then you can know it’s God preparing you for your future destiny.
What circumstances are you “responding up” to? How are you maintaining your faith? Let me know below!