Cast Away

Dear Church Family,

In the movie Cast Away (2000), Chuck Noland (played by Tom Hanks) becomes stranded on an island, and then must struggle to survive. At a certain point, he realizes that the only thing that he has control over is the way in which he might kill himself. So, he fashions his own rope out of tree bark, ties the rope to a branch, which is stretched out over a cliff and then tests his contraption of self-destruction with a dead weight. His contraption fails, and recounting the event to a friend, he comments, “I realized that I didn’t even have control of killing myself in the way that I wanted to, and that’s when a warm feeling came over me.” He was learning to trust and hope, not in himself, but in something outside of himself. God is not mentioned in the movie. The world calls this fate, but in literary terms, we might call this the ‘Divine Passive’ - where God is behind the scenes directing events for His purposes.

Finally, after four years on this island, in an act of ‘fate,’ a section of a port-a-potty washes up on shore of Chuck Noland’s island. This gives Chuck an idea for a sail, which he can use to take a raft out past the breakers and head into the open sea, and perhaps be rescued. The cast away makes it off the island. But then a storm ravishes his raft. He loses his sail and the only friend and companion that he has had for the last four years, a volleyball named Wilson. In a dramatic scene depicting the lengths to which we will go in order to cling to our self-made idols, the cast away almost drowns trying to save his volleyball. He is forced to choose between the raft and the volleyball, and reluctantly he swims back to the raft, climbs aboard, and lies down, broken and weeping for the loss of his last vestige of self. Chuck Noland has finally been broken, and he gives up all attempts of survival as he calmly throws his oars overboard, lies back, and lets the ocean tides take him where they may. Then, and only then, do we see ‘fate’, the Divine Passive, enter into the story in a miraculous way as Chuck is rescued by a passing cargo ship.

The point of the movie shouldn’t be lost on those who maintain a Christian worldview. In fact the ways in which ‘fate’ deals with Chuck Noland directly parallels the way in which the Bible says that God brings people to brokenness and repentance, the way in which He brings people into His kingdom. God disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness. It may seem like pain and sorrow at the time, but we should remember that if we are in Christ, God uses our painful experiences to yield peaceful fruit and righteousness (Hebrews 12:10-13).

Like Chuck Noland in Cast Away, God uses various means to bring us to a point of complete surrender and shows us how if we seek to save ourselves, we will fail. Then God takes the broken individual and rescues and restores him. Once He has brought us to a place where we have thrown out the oars and given up, God reaches into our lives and redeems us. The apostle Paul summarizes this nicely when he writes,

“But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

Are you going through a trying time where it seems like you can find no escape? Do you know someone who is hurting and feeling broken because nothing they do seems to be working toward a solution? Are you like the cast away who, though he tried with everything he had, lost control of everything in his life? Perhaps, God is wrestling with you. Perhaps, He is trying to humble or discipline you. Perhaps, He is trying to tell you that all your attempts to rescue yourself, all your tries to heal yourself and your relationships - apart from Christ, they are rubbish. Once you come to this understanding, turn to Christ and His righteousness. We must become like Christ in His death and share in His sufferings in order to know Him and the power of His resurrection. Only in Him can you attain to the resurrection from the dead and be rescued from your storm-tossed raft.

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch