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  • Writer's pictureMark Alan Williams

Ten Ways To Survive And Thrive In A Disaster

This week has been a week of major loss here in San Diego County. Dozens of homes and businesses have been destroyed by wildfires. Schools and workplaces have been closed.

The doctor’s office where my wife Carolyn works is up on the hill in the middle of the picture

My heart goes out to those who have lost so much.

The doctor’s office where Carolyn works in Carlsbad was right next to one of the heavy fire areas. Windows were broken as firemen had to get in to fight the fire. The carpet is ruined. The office will be closed at least a week.

But the dentist office right next door (same building) was totally demolished. The roof is caved in. It won’t be able to reopen for 6 to 9 months. Wow. We are so thankful this did not happen to Carolyn’s employer.

Disasters come in many varieties and sometimes have many fatalities.

My Danish great-grandfather, Eskild Alfred Eskildsen survived the sinking of the SS Norge passenger liner in 1904.

The ship left Denmark and was on route to America with 635 passengers when disaster struck. It hit the St. Helen’s reef by Rockall in the frigid Atlantic waters hundreds of miles out to sea.

In only 20 minutes, the ship sank, leaving 80% of the people to perish and only 160 survivors. The Norge had 8 lifeboats which were tragically under-filled.

Challenges like this reveal a person’s character. In a desperate moment, my great-grandfather made the right decisions.

Here are ten ways to survive and thrive in a disaster:

1. Acceptance

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33)

Accept that disasters happen to everyone.

2. Rest in Jesus to Remain Calm

The entire verse cited above says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)

Our demeanor may determine the outcome for ourselves and others. Many of the SS Norge crew and passengers panicked and many lives were lost.

As believers we can face disaster confidently with Jesus Christ. If survival is not our outcome, as a believer we know our heavenly future is far better than anything!

3. Maintain Integrity

My great grandfather was responsible for passenger care as a ship steward. He remained at his post, keeping his word even when his own life was in danger.

4. Be Courageous

Courage is facing fear in spite of our feelings.

Though Jesus Christ could have freed Himself, He had courage and submitted to the Father, willingly suffering and dying for our sins.

5. Serve Others

It is understandable and common to think of ourselves during disaster. But like Jesus, we are called to serve others even to the end.

The Bible says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

My great grandfather put others first by helping women and children into their life belts and life boats.

6. Do what You Can

During a disaster it is important to keep moving and do whatever is humanly possible to improve conditions.

After my great grandfather was taken aboard lifeboat 4, they took turns rowing for hours in shifts.

7. Depend on God

The passengers on lifeboat 4 prayed and depended on God. Their prayers were answered with mussels to eat and some rainwater to drink.

Contrary to depending on God, living independent from Him creates anxiety and inner tension.

We need to go to God for His:

  • power

  • wisdom

  • knowledge

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

8. Persevere in Integrity

One lifeboat passenger gave in to his thirst and drank seawater with disastrous results.

1 Corinthians 10:13 is God’s promise to us that, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

9. Be Grateful

Practice gratitude to God for what remains and for answered prayers.

On day 8, the lifeboat was spotted and rescued by the schooner Olga Pauline. The passengers were gravely dehydrated and hungry, yet all survived.

10. Recover and Prepare

A year after returning to Denmark, my great-grandfather, his wife, and 7 children boarded another ship and arrived safely at Ellis Island, New York.

The Bible says, “We also boast of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance,” (Romans 5:3)

Look for the positive in every negative. We can boast about trouble because we are exercising faith muscles. One positive in disaster is growing closer to the Lord. Each disaster can strengthen and help prepare us for the next one.

For an expanded account of the Norge disaster and my great-grandfather’s survival in three parts, start HERE

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