What a year 2020 has been so far! Storm has followed storm. Homes and shops have been flooded – some for the second time. Many have lost all they own. Some have lost their businesses. Even more tragically, some have lost their lives and there are more storms on the way. To add to these storms there’s coronavirus! As I write, almost 90,000 people have been infected across the world, many have died, and whole towns are being locked down. [Editor: This was the situation at the beginning of March.]
Do you ever worry in these storms and troubles of life? I do. With all these threats to our lives and well-being, what do you do? Close your eyes and hope it goes away? Let drink dull your senses? Escape into box sets? Or pretend it’s all just a fable?
And that is to say nothing of the ‘normal’ storms of life – health crises, family hurts, and those other unexpected, unwanted and unplanned intrusions into our lives.
We are all human and fragile. We all face so many situations where we don’t know what to do! One definition of learning is ‘knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do!’ So often we long for someone to rescue us. Is there anyone ‘out there’ who cares?
Who will find a vaccine or rescue us in our personal ‘car crashes’ of life? Or are we on our own to face these and so many other ‘storms’ – family, financial, relationship breakdowns? You will have your own list. We need to be rescued from ourselves and our self-centred lives and thinking – not least our broken relationship with God.
Finding a refuge
We will all be hit by storms and troubles. God says it (Psalm 91:15). If we are trusting and loving him, God promises that we will be rescued from the most significant eternal troubles (Psalm 91:14). What a rescue and what a rescuer! ‘He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings will you find refuge’ (Psalm 91:4). Timothy Keller says this covering tells us three vital things: we are safe, we are loved tenderly, and most importantly, we are protected by the intervention of the bird’s body. The mother bird takes the heat of the day, the cold of the night, and the attacks of the predators. She suffers – even dies, perhaps – to keep her chicks safe. Jesus uses the same picture as he talks of God’s judgement to the people of Jerusalem. ‘How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.’ That is exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross! Are you willing to trust him?
Finding a rescuer
Often the most amazing, selfless, brave rescuers are unknown and forgotten. Harry Gregg was that to me. He died in February. He was goalkeeper for Manchester United in the last century, on the tragic flight of the Busby Babes (a great, winning Manchester United team).
His obituary in the Times told his sad yet incredibly heroic story.
‘On the third attempt to take off from Munich the plane skidded off the runway, hitting a fence, a house and a hut. The tail and the wing were torn off and fuel was leaking… “Everything went black all of a sudden and sparks began to fly. I was hit hard on the back of my head, and I thought the top of my skull had been cut off.” He told how the aircraft rolled on to its side. “There was just silence and blackness, and then for a second daylight again. I thought I was dead.” Realising that he was, in fact, still alive, and with blood pouring from his face, Gregg unfastened his seatbelt and climbed out.
James Thain, the pilot, appeared with a fire extinguisher and told him to run. “I got out of the plane and there’s five people running for it, and Thain said, ‘Run, you stupid ……., the plane’s about to explode.’ And I was about to run when I heard a child crying”…
“I called out to them, ‘Come back, you …….., there’s a child alive.’ But they didn’t, and I went back in, and I was terrified what I’d find. I found the baby and started to carry it out. The radio operator took the child [called Vesna] from me, and I went back into the debris, and I found her mother [Vera Lukic, the pregnant wife of a Yugoslav diplomat], who was in a bad condition. I kicked a hole in the fuselage, and I pushed her out.”
On running to the rear of the aircraft, Gregg found his team-mates Bobby Charlton and Dennis Viollet lying still. “I thought they were dead and I dragged their bodies, like rag dolls, into the seats which had been thrown about 20 yards from the plane.”
How do you react to that story? I can’t help shedding tears. Their lives mattered more than his own. He was terrified but kept on. Was it the cries of the child which drove him? What he had seen and heard caused his genuine, gut-wrenching compassion, which drove him to these extraordinary acts.
So, is there an amazing, selfless forgotten rescuer for us? One who hears our cry and has gut-wrenching compassion for us, and who faced death to rescue us and will save us in our great storms of life? Yes, there is. And his name is Jesus.
While on earth, Jesus showed compassion, ‘off-the-scale’ love, gut-wrenching compassion for individuals and crowds of people. He saw a desperate and broken widow on her way to bury her only son. He had compassion on her, his heart went out to her, but more. It was as if he absorbed her suffering. He turned her life around. He rescued her and her son that day. She was rescued from the storm of death and hopelessness! At other times Jesus had compassion on crowds of people. On one occasion, he explained why – they were like sheep without a shepherd.
His compassion is utterly selfless; it drove him to the cross. We are hopeless against the storms of life, and Jesus sees us in our need. He brings forgiveness and healing. Like Harry Gregg, Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, had to face the choice of going into certain death on the cross to rescue his people. He chose to go back into the broken plane as it were, to rescue his people – all who turn from their failed way of life and call to him – a little like the dear child in the Munich disaster.
The hymn writer puts it perfectly:
He died that we might be forgiven
He died to make us good
That we might go at last to heaven
Saved by His precious blood.
Will you turn to him, away from your failure and pride, and humbly call on him to rescue you from yourself, your ways, and forgive you? As truly amazing as Harry Gregg’s rescue was, the Lord Jesus is beyond comparison – simply incomparable! Come to him! Be rescued! Be safe!