(Note: I wrote this shortly after the Utah mine cave-in during early August. It seems there has been an increasing number of cave-ins lately. I ache for the lost men in Utah and around the world. I have the utmost compassion and respect for the families of miners trapped.)
Where am I? It’s so dark. What happened? I hurt. Oh, the cave in. I remember now.
“George….? Tom …? Bill …?”
“Here, I’m here,” George responds weakly.
“George, it’s me, Larry. Are you okay?”
“No, I’m really hurt. I don’t think I’ll make it much longer. You?”
“I’m hurt bad, too. Can’t move my legs.” We are silent for a moment as we catch our breath. “Is anyone else hurt?”
No answer. I search for my miner’s hat. Finding it, I turn on the light. The other miners are nearby. Silent. Tony moans, gasping as he wakes. The others awaken also, moaning or gasping in pain. I want to help, but cannot move my legs. They are buried under rocks.
One by one, we turn on our miner’s hats and survey our situation. There is silence as the absolute aloneness closes in on us.
“Larry,” Tony calls weakly. “Tell me again about Jesus.”
In my heart, I believe we will all die here. I sing every week at church, so I decide to sing now, half a mile below the earth’s surface.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see.
Michael and Bill join in, so very weakly, yet with purpose. We can only sing a few words at a time, as the pain is nearly unbearable.
Tony’s cries are heard. “I need your Jesus,” he whispers, “but it’s too late. I can’t do anything good.”
“It’s never too late.” I tell him about Paul and the thief on the cross. I tell him about the prodigal son. Tony repents of his sins and gives his heart to Christ. Bill grasps his hand and calls him, “brother.”
“Oh, the sweet sight of our Lord,” says Bill. “He comes now.” I mourn at losing two of my friends, but I know I will see both of them soon.
George laments, “We’re all gonna die here. I’m so afraid.”
Tom says, “hey, buddy, quit. Even now, they search and will find us any moment.”
“But we ran deeper into the cave and took an uncharted path. They won’t find us.” George was always the pessimist.
Michael is groaning. “Hey, I’m about done here. I’m glad I worked with each of you. Larry, thanks for sharing your faith all these years. I know I’ve been quiet about my faith, but I trust in Christ – and have for several years.” He pauses as he gasps for breath. “If any of you make it, tell my wife to stay true to God.” Michael gives a deep sigh and is completely silent.
“Is he dead, too? I knew it – we’re going to die here.” George is spitting out angry words between short breaths of pain.
“George, calm down. The rescuers are coming.”
All is quiet for what seems like hours. Our helmets, like our hope of being found alive, are dimming.
Tom says, “If they don’t come soon, we are doomed and beyond rescue.”
“The One Who can rescue is nearby,” I say with firmness.
“You mean Jesus?” Tom scoffed. “How can he rescue us?”
“He seeks the lost. He rescues and He saves. He saved Daniel from the lions. He can, and will, save you.”
George said, “you mean all I have to do is trust in Him? Then what?”
“He will give you a peace beyond understanding and life eternal with Him. Without Him, it would be like being alone in here for eternity – no light, no food, no companionship.”
“I’m afraid to be alone and I hate the darkness. Help me find Jesus.” George speaks with an earnestness I had never heard before.
“Ask Him to come into your heart. Tell Him you want and need Him.”
“Jesus, I don’t know how to talk to You, but I’m scared. I know I need You. Will You help me?” George continued to talk, too low to be heard by us. But Jesus heard. “Oh, my Lord and my God,” George proclaimed loudly. In the silence that followed, I knew that George was now in the Lord’s presence.
Now, only Tom and I are left in the deep darkness of the mine.
Tom was still skeptical. “if God is so good, why are we dying one by one? It’s been hours, or maybe days, and there is no sound from above.”
“Perhaps, like so many people, they are looking in the wrong place.”
“What do you mean?”
“In life, we search everywhere to fill a void that cannot be satisfied with things. Money, houses, cars – they give us a temporary happiness. In our hearts is a hole that can be filled only by God.”
Tom’s voice was weakening as his body was succumbing to its injuries. “I’m gonna die soon.”
“In death, there is life,” I say. “We came into this world with nothing. We can leave the same way, or we can fall into the everlasting arms of Jesus.” I begin to sing:
What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.
It is difficult to sing, but I know I must complete this verse.
Tom sort of laughs. “If I don’t accept Him, I die and the pain is gone. What’s the difference?”
“God tells us that hell is real. Those in hell live a life of perpetual physical pain for all eternity.”
“So if I call upon Him, I won’t have pain? Sounds like a good trade-off.”
“It’s not quite that simple. You need to honestly yield to Christ, not just because you don’t want pain. Accepting Him to prevent something – well, no, you need Him because He is our Creator, our Sustainer, and because He loves us so much He gave His only Son to die for our sins.”
“Tell me about that verse.”
“When Adam and Eve sinned, a chasm was formed between God and man. We cannot cross it by our own merit or strength, but only on Christ. As Jesus stretched out His arms on the cross, He built a bridge across that chasm. A bridge we can stand on and cross to Him. Even more, though, He rose from the dead to show us that He is a living God.”
“I’ve never heard it explained like that. Tell me more.”
“We are all sinners and cannot come to Him except by His grace and mercy. Our works cannot get us into Heaven. This is so we cannot boast of what we did, but rather on what Christ did. Nothing we can do – plead or pay money, can get us into Heaven. Only a truly repentant heart, eager and ready to be renewed by the blood of Christ, can join Him in eternal glory.”
I could barely speak, as my chest was beginning to hurt more and more.
Tom whispered, “So in hell I would know that I am separated from the One Who loves me that much? I would have the pain of loneliness and rejection for eternity?”
“Yes, that’s right. Yet it’s never too late to change.”
“I always thought I had to do good things to get to heaven. Now you explain that I just have to trust Jesus.”
“Exactly. Accept Him. He waits for you.”
The silence lengthened while our lamps dimmed, going out one by one. Slowly, complete darkness overtook us. “I can’t see,” Tom said.
“Our lights have failed, but the Eternal Light waits for you.”
In the silence, I can hear Tom’s raspy breathing. Suddenly, he calls, “Jesus, rescue me. I don’t want to live alone in the darkness. Help me, Jesus.” Tom laughs unexpectedly. “It’s true, Larry. All you’ve told me is true! I’m no longer alone. Thank you, Larry. Oh, thank you, Jesus!”
I am left alone in the absolute darkness. I’m the last one alive. My body reminds me of its fatal injuries. I hurt in places I didn’t know I had. Yet I feel a peace come upon me, with a calmness unlike anything I’ve ever felt. In the darkness, I listen to the quietness. The hours, or days, pass. I sing and pray. “When will You take me home, Lord? I’m ready. It’s so dark in here and I’m cold.”
The numbness is setting in so I don’t feel the pain.
I wish I could say goodbye to my wife and children.
“Lord, give them peace. They know You and follow You. Keep them comforted in the knowledge that You are real. Let them feel Your presence every day.”
I’ve never known such absolute darkness. I see a pinpoint of light. It’s so bright, but why isn’t it hurting my eyes? The light is coming closer and I can only stare at it, unable to move. I seem to float from the floor and rise, awed by the beauty and brilliance of this Light. It’s my Lord and He has come to take me home. I cannot help but glance back and see six bodies on the ground. I turn to Christ. He says, “Come, they all await you, my good and faithful servant.”
Psalm 18:19 He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.
“Amazing Grace,” written by John Newton, 1772.
“Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” written by Anthony J. Showalter, 1887,