On Saturday, June 23, 2018, after soccer practice, twelve Thai boys and their coach went exploring in the Tham Luang cave. This is a big cave, it extends for more than 6 miles beneath a mountain range in Thailand. It is well-known, and often visited. However, during monsoon season (which starts in July), the cave can flood up with up to 16 feet of water and going in becomes dangerous and often impossible.
You may remember this story. The boys encountered flooding and ended up moving deeper into the cave to get away from the water. They eventually stopped on a rocky ledge more than 2 miles from the cave entrance. They were trapped. Water all around. Darkness. Nothing to do but wait for rescue.
A rescue operation was launched. Word spread around Thailand and eventually worldwide. Rescuers from Thailand were joined by US Air Force recue specialists and cave divers from many countries. The Thai government set up pumps to try to move water out of the cave. People around the world prayed that the boys and their coach would survive.
Pouring rain made conditions miserable outside the cave and more and more dangerous inside for the divers who were searching. On June 28, 2018, a social media post read: “divers have stopped searching-water levels have risen to fill most caves. Pumping has stopped-too much rain. Authorities say they will rethink strategy for finding missing boys.”
On Monday, July 2, two divers finally located the boys. The lost had been found! There is actually a video of that moment. “How many of you?” and the answer, “Thirteen!” They were all alive, 9 days later! Now to get them out.
Diving in Tham Luang was dangerous. Extracting the weak and hungry children was a monumental task. While preparations were made, divers took in air tanks and liquid food and fortified drinks to sustain the boys. On Friday, July 6, one of the rescuers, a former Navy Seal diver, died during an air delivery.
Miraculously, there was a break in the rain, and the decision was made to make the move to bring the boys and their coach out.
Each boy had a full face mask for oxygen, had a cylinder strapped to his chest, and a handle of sorts on his back. He was clipped to one diver and accompanied by another diver. From a BBC report, “At the narrowest sections, the divers had to unstrap their air tanks in order to squeeze through, while also pulling along their precious cargo.”
The first of the boys was brought out, alive, on July 7. They were all rescued over the next 3 days, and as the last of the boys and their coach were being shuttled out, the waters began to rise, as quickly as 11 inches per hour by one rescuer’s report. And as the last of the rescuers were leaving the cave, a pump suddenly stopped working and floodwaters filled the cave.
A Facebook post from the Thai Navy Seals: “We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what.”
I remember praying fervently and frequently for those boys. I am pretty sure it was a miracle.
By now you know that I love stories, and I love thinking about them in light of The Story. Right away, as this story unfolded, I began seeing the parallels to Jesus’ rescue of us. Each of us was trapped. In the dark, without any way to get ourselves to light and life. God loved the world, each of us. Just as the boys and their coach mattered enough to garner the resources and the prayers necessary to undertake an incredibly difficult and costly rescue mission, we matter to God. He sent the only Rescuer who could navigate the darkness, willing to die in the process, to bring us out and give us a “new birth.” It is all about Him-like the Thai boys, we couldn’t even help in the swimming to get ourselves out, we just had to let Him carry us.
This rescue plan, put into place thousands of years previous (as evidenced by Bible prophecy) started with the Advent of Jesus. That miraculous event that we are celebrating at Christmas.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem (rescue) those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4
At just the right time…
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7
Just sit with those verses for a minute.
I find so often in following Jesus that there is the big, followed by lots of smalls. Let me explain. There is the big rescue-that allowing Jesus to carry you by way of His amazing sacrifice from death and darkness to light and abundant, eternal life. And then, there are all the little rescues that follow-allowing Jesus to carry you from discouragement or frustration or anger or sadness to light and peace and hope. The big rescue plays out on a smaller scale over and over in our lives.
It happened again for me this week.
A student about whom I have come to care very much moved away unexpectedly. I was sad. I was worried about what would happen to him, if he would be OK. Lots of unknowns in my mind, and not one thing I could do to change the situation. Forgive the repetition, but I was sad. In my sadness, one of my friends texted me, “The truth we need to hear in this situation is that God can get a hold of his heart without us.” I had a choice. Would I believe the truth and allow myself to be carried away from sadness to trust and hope? It took some pondering, but I chose to believe. I choose to believe. God is a rescue expert.
Psalm 18:16-19 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”
And Psalm 118:5 “When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place.”
Many times as we live our lives we find ourselves stuck in a tight place emotionally, in deep waters. God wants to take hold of us in those moments and rescue us. He has a spacious place that is much better than the dark, cramped spots we can get into. We have a choice. Will we believe and allow ourselves to be brought out?
Please choose rescue. Choose the ultimate rescue from sin and death. Then, choose the rescue from the thoughts and feelings that trap you. God has been known to go to great lengths, like parting seas and knocking down walls, to set His people free.
Awesome God, I am amazed by Your love. Love that reaches out and rescues. Love that sent Jesus and that continues to send help. Thank You. Please help me to choose not to linger in darkness but to accept Your rescue. I pray for each person who reads this, that they would choose Your rescue. Speak to their hearts and lead them to the new birth You offer. For those who have already been adopted into Your family, remind them of Your offer of light and peace and hope to replace sadness and anger and despair. Especially during this season where we remember the coming of Jesus but where we also encounter much stress and overwhelming emotion, be near us. “Thank You” doesn’t seem like enough. Hear my heart – thank You.
“For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” Psalm 116:8