How to Face
Uncertain Tomorrow ?
Just weeks ago on February 1, 2003, the American Space program suffered its
third fatal disaster as seven astronauts died in flight. It happened
at 8:00 on a Saturday morning, just sixteen minutes before its intended
landing in Florida.
The space shuttle, Columbia, had traveled six million miles in sixteen
days and was close to home . . . but it didn't make it safely back
to earth. A catastrophic explosion tore the shuttle apart about 200,000
feet (38 miles) above Texas.
Thousands of pieces of the shuttle and human body parts rained fragments
to earth. The accident was a huge tragedy for the families of the
victims . . . for NASA . . . and for the United States.
Since the accident, many touching human stories have surfaced. There
were at least two committed Christians on the flight: Rick Husband
and Michael Anderson. Shortly before the flight Michael was talking
with a friend. The friend expressed concern, fear, and uncertainty
about the entire flight experience to Michael. He responded, If something
severe happens, don't worry about me. At that moment I will be going
On the evening before the flight, Commander Husband gathered the
seven astronauts and their families together. He read the following
Scriptures to them, taken from Joshua 1:5-9. It contains a part of
God's charter to Joshua as he embarked on a difficult assignment.
The passage includes the following as God talks to Joshua.
"As I was with Moses, so I will be with
you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and very courageous.
Be careful to obey all the law . . . Have not I commanded you? Be
strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
How fitting! How appropriate! The same God who spoke to Joshua at
the start of a tough assignment was now talking with the seven astronauts
at the start of their difficult and uncertain journey. It is a great
text for each of us to carry with us daily. The text includes:
• A CALL TO OBEDIENCE, potently stated in verses 7-8.
• A CHALLENGE TO COURAGE. Three times in the complete text.
God says . . . Be strong and courageous. In Him, we find strength
and courage. We need not be wimps. Not losers. Not quitters. Not victims
. . . but victors.
• A REMINDER OF GOD'S PRESENCE (verses 5 and 9). I will never
leave you nor forsake you. (Verse 5, and later in Hebrews 13:5). The
last phrase of verse 9 is so good to ponder . . . the Lord your God
will be with you wherever you go. That's right. . . WHEREVER? Yes,
even into outer space.
• TWO ADMONITIONS (in verse 9) ... don't be terrified and don't
be discouraged. These two tendencies are still around, aren't they?
And God addresses them in both the Old and the New Testaments. We
don't need to be shackled with them any longer.
As I read this paragraph of Scripture, I thank God that He spoke
these words to Joshua, and often re-stated them elsewhere in the Bible
for His people to hear and heed. These words helped prepare the astronauts
for their flight and I am convinced that these words were written
on their hearts during the flight and at the moment of unexpected
When the pastor and rabbi spoke at the Memorial Service in Texas,
they read Psalm 23, both in Hebrew and in English.
One year earlier President Bush, on the night of 9/11, read the same
passage to the nation from the Oval Office. The fourth verse of that
Psalm was especially pertinent in both settings . . . Even
though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear
no evil for you are with me. Such a pertinent text for David
(at the time of writing), for a nervous nation (on 9/11), for astronauts
and their families ... for you and me as we face this day and tomorrow.
************************Letter #11 (16. 3. 2003 )*****************