The story is told that, after a terrible shipwreck, a single survivor washed up on a small, uninhabited island. A believer in Christ, he prayed fervently to God for rescue. Day after day, he scanned the horizon for help, but saw nothing but water. Nothing but water! He tried to think of other things, but these lines from Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner kept echoing through his mind:
“Alone! Alone! All, all alone!
Alone on a wide, wide sea.
And not a saint took pity on
my soul in agony.”
With great difficulty, he managed to gather enough driftwood and debris to build a little hut to shelter him from the elements and to protect what few possessions he had salvaged. One day, after scavenging for food, he returned to find his little hut in flames, with smoke billowing up into the sky. He was stunned with disbelief, grief, and anger. He felt that now the worst had happened, that all was lost. He cried out, “God! How can you do this to me?” In hopeless despair, he fell to the sand and waited to die. Early the next day, he was awakened by the sound of a ship approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. “How did you know I was here?,” the weary man asked his rescuers. They replied. “We saw your smoke signal.”
The story is fictional, but the truth it illustrates is factual — “And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). As the old gospel song puts it, “I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow.”
“How good is the God we adore,
our faithful unchangeable Friend!
His love is as great as his pow’r,
and knows neither measure nor end!
“’tis Jesus the First and the Last,
whose Spirit shall guide us safe home,
we’ll praise him for all that is past,
and trust him for all that’s to come.”
(Joseph Hart, 1759)