February 7, 2003
When Faith's All We Have
by Donald G. Mashburn

The tragic loss of Columbia’s seven astronauts reminds us that choices we make help us to live, and prepare us to die. Particularly, the choices we make regarding faith in God and our eternal destiny.

As the brave Columbia crew discovered – some 15 minutes from landing – there comes a time when faith is all we have.

The seven astronauts were remarkably talented, exemplary in their performance and courage. As to their spiritual condition, God knows all about that, and that’s the important thing to remember in the search for meaning in our time of sadness.

It does help to know that among Columbia’s astronauts were believers in God. Rick Husband, shuttle commander, Michael Anderson, payload commander, and William McCool, shuttle pilot, inspired others by their faith. Each witnessed to his faith in God and “walked the talk” in life. They chose to become “unequal” with the world.

Michael Anderson and Rick McCool were members of Grace Community Church, in Houston. On a Sunday before Columbia’s lift-off, both stood before their congregation, witnessed to their faith in God and Jesus Christ, and asked the church to pray for their safety. With them were their families, all of whom share that faith.

Before his last flight, Michael Anderson told his sister, Joann Sykes, of Oklahoma City, “I have made my peace with God.” In an interview with The Daily Oklahoman, Sykes said of her brother, “He was really strong in his faith in God.”

Rick Husband’s faith inspired many. His pastor said, “Rick Husband is probably the godliest man I’ve ever met. He was such a lover of God and a worker for God, a kind person to everyone else. His wife is the same way.”

A lead engineer for NASA said that during the final minutes before lift-off, Col. Husband said, “The Lord has blessed us with a beautiful day for a launch.” And a Houston friend, Davis Jones, said, “Rick is a strong Christian man, and his family shares that faith.

The choices a good man made during his lifetime made all the difference, as Rick rode Columbia into eternity. And what a difference they will continue to make in the lives of his wife and children, as they grieve and depend on God for comfort and peace.

William McCool, an intelligent and accomplished man, is remembered by colleagues as being “very religious.” His mother echoed those words, saying, “Willie,” as she called her son, was “very religious.” What comfort that must be to McCool’s family.

These three men were admirably equipped to achieve worthwhile things in life. But the larger thing is that they lived their lives in ways that prepared them to die. As Columbia came apart, they were ready to be instantly transported into the presence of a loving God.

We earthbound pilgrims can neither rehearse nor predict how we’ll leave this life. We may suffer an affliction that gives us time to make new decisions. Or we may be “catapulted” into eternity by a sudden crash or explosion – even a sniper’s bullet. We may not have time for decisions, or to thank God for what He gave us in life, or reaffirm our faith in His promises for eternity.

The Columbia astronauts were all space-savvy. A moment came when they realized they would not survive – the moment they realized their destiny was beyond their own power, and that Mission Control couldn’t help. The moment when the surly bonds of Earth they had slipped for 17 days began turning Columbia into what a former astronaut called a “fiery ride to glory.” In those final moments, their faith was all they had.

All of us will face such a moment. Life’s journey on Earth is short, punctuated by happiness and grief, satisfaction and pain, success and failure. At the end, we’ll have a “moment” – an instant or a painfully long time – when we face eternity, powerless to help ourselves, and beyond the help of any earthly “Mission Control.”

At that moment, how “unequal” with the world we’ve become will be all-important. A moment when faith is all we have.

A time when faith will make all the difference!