The other night I happened to turn on the television, and I watched the tail-end of a true-life disaster played out in high drama. It was the story of the Silverwood family from California, and their boating accident in the South Pacific that nearly cost the life of the father, John Silverwood.
I was able to piece together the beginning, based on the stories being unraveled by the Silverwoods and their 4 children. They were sailing in the South Pacific, and something went terribly wrong. A freak storm hit and their catamaran was pounded by a huge wave against a razor-sharp reef. The mast fell on John and gave him a severe wound on his leg, which resulted in a massive loss of blood. If he was going to survive, they would have to get him medical attention quickly.
You can read their first-hand account in their book, Black Wave: A Family's Adventure at Sea and the Disaster that Saved Them.
The way they see it, this disaster saved their family. By suffering together, it caused them to grow stronger together and helped heal some wounds in their family. They chose to give thanks for each other and for life, which, prior to the accident, they just took for granted.
In the same way, Greg Mortenson's story, Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time, tells the story of his personal disasters: his sister's untimely death; his failed attempt to conquer the world's second highest mountain, K2, in his sister's honor; his failure to even live a stable life; and how these failures led him to tremendous success at building schools for the poorest of the poor in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Neither of these stories would have had the same joyful endings if they first hadn't experienced adversity. While neither of these stories mention a Christian belief or motive, they have strong parallels to the life of Christ. First comes suffering. Then death. Finally, resurrection.
These two stories, in particular, have gotten me thinking about how I can use my own disasters and failures to grow stronger, to embrace life and family, and to promote peace in my own world. The fastings and deprivations of Lent aren't just about denying ourselves or losing a few unwanted pounds. The fastings of Lent are supposed to help us see what is really important in life. To know, love and serve Him who created us, and by doing so, to better serve those around us.