My heart and breath stood still as the first of the 33 Chilean miners was extracted from a depth of 2,300 feet after 69 days of imprisonment. I began to focus on the wheel that was turning to move these men toward freedom.
It was awesome that this wheel turned a thin cable attached to a capsule that had to bring up one man at a time. What if the wheel stopped, or the cable broke? What would be the outcome? At this point, I began to think of an old spiritual about the prophet Ezekiel who, in the 6th century BC, grew up as a priest and a prophet of God. In his prophesy, he saw the wheels within the wheels churning in the sky, which was evidence that God was still on his throne.
An African-American composer who was influenced by this biblical tale wrote the hymn, “Ezek’el Saw de Wheel.” The verse goes as follows:
Ezek’el saw de wheel/Way up in de middle o’ de air/ Ezek’el saw de wheel/ Way in de middle o’ de air/ De big wheel run by faith/De little wheel run by de Grace o’ God/ A wheel in a wheel/Way in de middle o’ de air.
I am sure that the composer of this spiritual was experiencing the same faithfulness of God as the prophet Ezekiel, who was prophesying to his people.
It was reported that when asked how the miners were able to survive, one of the rescued men explained that there were not 33 in captivity, but 34—the other being God.
I recall a story from the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament, Chapter: 3-13-30, about three Jewish youths named Hananiah (who was called, Shadrach), Mishael (called Meshach), and Azarih (called Abednego), who refused to bow down to the golden God of Babylon and were condemned to die in a blazing furnace. The king, wishing to view their destruction, observed another figure among them. He was so taken by this vision that he believed the God of these men were present with them. They were not destroyed but were given high positions in his kingdom.
To be captive in a mine for 69 days and survive, something had to take place in the minds of these captives. It has been shown, over and over again, how the mind plays a major role in survival.
I recall a story that was reported about a concentration camp, where a Rabbi gathered his people around a table that held a small amount of water and spoiled bread. He related to them to imagine that this bread and water was a sumptuous dinner and wine. In so doing, their hunger was satisfied, and they survived. This type of faith was also evident when Jesus fed the 3,000 with six loaves and three fishes.
As a physician who has cared for many patients, I have seen miracles take place when allowing the mind of my patient to become active in their treatment. There are many reported examples of spontaneous remission of tumors and other incurable diseases when faith became part of the treatment. In other words, to quote the slogan of the United Negro College Fund, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
I am sure that the miners of this great disaster will surely be able to lift up the lives of others who may think that there is no end in sight when faced with a seemingly hopeless situation.
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