I was with God, and with the Devil – and God took me.
—Mario Sepúlveda, one of the 33 survivors of the 2010 Chilean mine cave-in.
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
“Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:1-3)
PRAYER FOCUS: The Slimy Pit
On 5 August 2010, a cave-in at the San Jose copper mine in Atacama, Chile, trapped 33 miners more than 2,300 feet (700 meters) underground. The survivors had 3 days’ worth of emergency food and water. They had no contact with the surface. They waited patiently for more than two weeks. They wrestled with fear and hopelessness. On the seventeenth day, a few hours after their rations had completely run out, a drill bore broke through.
Up on the surface, when the drill bit was extracted, the rescue team found a taped note that read, “Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33” (We are well in the shelter, the 33 of us).
The rescuers were overjoyed. The nation of Chile, along with more than one billion TV viewers worldwide, whose attentions—and prayers—had been focused on the trapped miners, breathed a collective sigh of relief.
The miners, most of whom were Roman Catholic, asked if Bibles, crucifixes, and rosaries could be sent down to them. Pope Benedict XVI sent each man a rosary. The men set up a makeshift chapel in the mine, and Mario Gómez, the eldest miner, led daily prayers and worship. One miner who had been living with his girlfriend for 25 years sent a note up asking her to marry him as soon as he was rescued.
Sixty-nine days after the cave-in, after a global effort, the 33rd miner emerged from the rescue shaft to cheers and tears of celebration all around the world. Chile’s president Sebastián Piñera declared, “All the bells of all the churches of Chile [will] ring out forcefully, with joy and hope. Faith has moved mountains.” The UK Daily Mail reported, “A deep religious faith powered this rescue; miners and families and rescuers alike believe their prayers were answered.”
Sooner or later we all find ourselves in the pit of despair. Maybe you’ve been disappointed by someone you trusted. Maybe you suffer from fatigue, or poor health, or actual depression. Or maybe you’ve just had a bad day/week/month and find yourself, in the Psalmist’s words, “in the slimy pit”.
David wrote the 40th Psalm. He had been in trouble before. He knew painful emotions. He could have written these words when King Saul drove him from the palace and hunted him, trying repeatedly to kill him. He might have written them when his own son, Absalom, tried to have him assassinated. Whatever it was, David’s grief was either brought on, or was aggravated, by his sin (v.12). David was far from perfect, and like us he had to suffer consequences of his mistakes.
David prayed—a lot. Most of David’s psalms are, in fact, prayers to his Father-God to rescue him from trouble, including this one. He knew he could trust God, because God had blessed him, God had saved him, many times before. David, imperfect as he was, had strong faith.
After praying, David waited patiently, which indicates the rescue didn’t come as quickly as he would have liked. And yet he has no doubt that the hoped-for, prayed-for help will come. Those who wait on the Lord may wait with assurance, but they must often wait with patience.
Christian, be assured that your Father-God will bring you up out of any rut, any pit, any depression or difficulty. He will set you on a new foundation. He will set before you new opportunities. He is the God of rescues and new beginnings. Not only will the Lord deliver you, but He will use your experience to bring others to Himself. He will put a new song in your mouth.
Deliverance from trouble confers on us a duty to proclaim God’s goodness. Where God has given a steadfast hope he expects our grateful reply. We have good reason to acknowledge, in thanks and praise, the riches of his grace. When we praise Him at this point, we are saying, “God, you did this—not me”.
And so, when trouble hits, thank God for the way He has delivered his children in the past, and know He will do the same for you. Remember that most people are inspired when they see someone overcome their times of testing. Remember also that we gain new understanding, greater wisdom and maturity as a result of our pit experiences.
It’s Monday Morning. It’s a new week. Thank God for it. Fresh mercies call for new songs. Sing a new one today!