Survival stories are simply fascinating. Nothing captivates an audience more than a tale about someone who has looked death in the eye, laughed, and lived to tell about it. They inspire people with their will to live amidst extraordinary circumstances, their creative ingenuity, and their indomitable spirit. Somehow, someway, their distant hope turns into a present reality. Audience members are often left to contemplate, “Could I have survived as well?” They ponder, “Do I have something so important to live for that I would never give up?”
The story of the Chilean mine collapse is no less inspiring. For 69 days, 33 men were trapped over a mile beneath the surface of the earth, forced to ration what little supplies they had for the 17 days it took for rescuers to drill a tiny hole in the rock to send down a supply tube. These 17 days were spent in darkness, heat, humidity, sleeplessness, and hunger. They had no idea whether or not they were being searched for until the drill came through their rock ceiling. Many of the details are still unknown, as the men made a pact to keep their experiences secret until they could collectively come together for a book or movie deal.
But what kept these miners motivated to live? For some, it was the thought of their families back home. For others, it was their relationship with God. And for most, it was their relationships with each other. There was something powerful and unique about the bond the miners shared while trapped in their rocky grave. It was a bond that went beyond self preservation: they cared for each other, confronted one another about transgressions, and encouraged one another to live – just one more day.
Since their rescue, not all of the miners have fared so well. Psychologists have noted that several resorted to heavy drinking, others had nightmares, and still others had breakdowns which forced them to be briefly hospitalized. Some critics have pointed to the world spotlight that these men were thrust into when they resurfaced, blaming the tremendous shock from overexposure to a ravenous media.
Is it possible that we, the world, have caused more distress in the lives of these men than a mine collapse? In order to satiate our own desire for thrilling adventure, we demand around-the-clock coverage of the event. We demand interviews, public appearances, and gruesome details. We obliterate their capacity for intimate relationships by prostituting their lives to every ogling bystander pining for a chance to speak with a ‘star.’ Meanwhile, they are forced to revisit moments of intense psychological, physical, and spiritual trauma on a seemingly daily basis.
What helped these men to survive is what these men need now to thrive: a reconnection to God and to others. They need to come to the point where they realize that their own power is not enough to bring deliverance or fulfillment in life. Sitting in a dark cavern, they had no one to rely on for help but God, and no comfort from people except for themselves. The healing process, then, will encompass believers coming alongside these men, pouring out the love of Christ into their lives. It will involve retracing the steps into the dark oblivion in which they lived, navigating according to the truth of God’s Word, and emerging into the light of a life of fulfillment and purpose through Jesus Christ. Only then will they realize that they are not alone, and that their nightmare does not have to persist as a reality.