Bob Russell, retired senior minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, is a great communicator whose thoughts I would like to occasionally share. Bob posted this article on his blog shortly after the Carnival cruise ship lost power in the Gulf of Mexico last week.
Four thousand passengers aboard the cruise ship Carnival had an undesirable experience last week. The luxury liner lost power in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and had to be towed back to shore. Meanwhile, the disappointed vacationers had to endure five vexing days without bathing, flushing or eating any hot or frozen food. Some said the ship was a floating latrine and the stench and discomfort were nearly unbearable.
The news media was eager to interview the disgruntled passengers as soon as they disembarked. While a few were calm and upbeat a number vowed never to take another cruise, others threatened to sue. Most were all-too-eager to complain.
That’s a sharp contrast with the attitude of the pilgrims who endured a brutal journey across the Atlantic in 1620. The Mayflower was no luxury, cruise liner. For over two months nearly 100 passengers were crammed into the hold of their tiny vessel. A violent storm and rough seas prevented them from going up on deck and getting fresh air for weeks. Their food was infested with bugs and already gnawed on by rats. Many got deathly sick and vomited in pails. The stench in the "lower deck" was horrific.
Yet when the Mayflower finally landed after sixty five days at sea, the first thing the passengers did was to participate in a worship service expressing thanks to God for their safe passage. God answered their prayer for a completed voyage and they were grateful.
What was the difference? Two important qualities: expectations and purpose. The hearty pilgrims anticipated the trip was going to be tough. They didn’t expect indulgence and fun. And they endured for the purpose of establishing a new country where their descendants would have the opportunity to worship God in total freedom. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, "If a man has a why for living, he can endure any how."
The contrast in attitude between the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower and the vacationers aboard the Carnival should serve as a reminder to us of the importance of a spiritual perspective on life. Unrealistic expectations and earthly goals contribute to complaining and unhappiness. Realistic expectations and eternal goals create contentment and joy. That’s why Jesus taught us, "In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
This world is full of unpredictable power losses and unfulfilled dreams. But take heart – we’ll be docking soon in an eternal land where all things will be made new. The Apostle Paul said he learned to be content whether he had plenty or little because he could do all things through Him who gave him strength.
We are challenged in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."