Among the Mayflower’s 102 passengers and crew was a servant indentured to John Carver, the Plymouth Colony’s first governor. The servant’s name was John Howland.
During one fierce storm on the Mayflower’s transatlantic journey, Howland climbed out of the miserably crowded conditions below deck to get some air above. No sooner had Howland come topside, that he regretted it. A huge wave crashed over the tiny vessel and swept the young man overboard into the tumultuous and bone-chilling North Atlantic waters. Howland was sure to become one of the group’s earliest casualties.
But by some miracle, Howland was able to grab hold of one of the ship’s trailing ropes. Though his head repeatedly sunk below the surface, the ship’s crew reeled him in and fished him out of the ocean and into the relative safety of the Mayflower. That do or die rescue would have significant ripple effects for the history of America.
Watching the frightful event was a twelve-year-old girl, Elizabeth Tilly. Within a few years she and John would marry and have ten children together – and eighty-two grandchildren. Though their descendants would become too numerous to count, there are some who are worth noting. For instance, two of John Howland’s descendants would become Hollywood actors: Humphry Bogart and Alec Baldwin. Another would be the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints – Joseph Smith. And three others would become American Presidents – George Bush, Sr. and George W. Bush, and – Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Sometimes when our lives seem to hang by a thin thread and we think there’s no tomorrow, God has other plans. The prophet Jeremiah declared that God knows the plans He has for us, plans for good and not for evil, plans to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). So, if you have entrusted your life to the Lord, don’t despair when problems mass and converge upon you at one critical moment. The end is not yet. Your frail existence is not subject to out-of-control circumstances. Your life is hidden safely in the hollow of God’s almighty and all-loving hand. He still has many chapters written in your life’s story – a story that is not to end in gloom down here, but ultimate glory in heaven. As Paul the apostle declared, “your life is hidden with Christ in God and when Christ, who is your life, is revealed, you will also be revealed with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4).
PRAYER: Dear Father in heaven, though life seems to have cast me into hopeless circumstances, I place my life into the hands of the God of all hope – the God who reigns supreme and causes all things to work together for my ultimate good. Amen.
(Information from: Rick Beyer, The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told, Harper Collins, New York, 2007)