On October 20, 1910, Violet Jessop began her career as a stewardess and nurse aboard the largest ocean liner of its time, the HMS Olympic.
But if Violet came to believe that her world aboard the great luxury liner was unshakeable, that notion was quickly shattered—less than a year later.
On September 20, 1911, a British Navy cruiser, the HMS Hawke collided with the Olympic, destroying one of her propellers and flooding two of her “water-tight” compartments. The Olympic was able to limp back to South Hampton under its own power, but Violet began to seriously wonder if she should seek a less risky life in some other profession.
A New Job
Yet Violet didn’t give up the work she had come to love. Instead of seeking a more secure world, she sought a more secure vessel—this time aboard an even bigger luxury ship, the Titanic! You probably know how that turned out. On her maiden voyage, the glorious Titanic struck an iceberg at about 0100 AM on April 15, 1912. The sea-going giant sank in two and a half hours. Violet was one of the 705 survivors (out of 2,200 passengers and crew). But she only escaped drowning by helping demonstrate to the female passengers how to board the lifeboats. During her demonstration, one of the officers placed an abandoned baby in her arms and told her to stay in the boat and care for the child. And, yes, the baby was restored to her mother when they were reunited aboard the rescuing Carpathia.
Despite these traumatic events within the span of two years, Violet still refused to give up her ocean-going life. And, honestly, Violet really didn’t have anything to go back to. By that time both her parents had died, as well as six of her eight siblings. As a baby, she contracted tuberculosis, so the doctors had given her up for dead. But she had survived it all and made a life for herself in one of England’s largest ocean liner services, the White Star Line.
Yet Another Ship
Then came WWI. Violet found work serving as a nurse aboard the Titanic’s sister ship, the HHS Britannic. But hard times would not leave Violet alone. On November 21, 1916, the Britannic hit a mine and sank in less than an hour. Violet managed to board a lifeboat but had to leap from it minutes later, just before it was drawn into one of the Britannic’s massive propellers. But as the Britannic plunged to the bottom of the Aegean Sea, the ship’s suction pulled her downward. And if matters weren’t bad enough, the keel of the Britannic struck her on the head, fracturing her skull. Yet she floated to the surface and was pulled into another lifeboat. She had survived her third maritime disaster in a short five–year career.
Surely, it was time to quit. Certainly, this was a foretaste of things to come and she should “take the hint” and get off those dangerous ships. But Violet Jessop never gave up hope. And it paid off. She found out that the adversity of the past was not an indicator of the future. In fact, Violet “stuck it out” and served on England’s finest liners for the next 37 catastrophe–free years, which included two round–the–world cruises.
The Past Does Not Indicate the Future
As I reflect on Violet Jessop’s experience, I can’t help thinking about many of our servicemembers, NCOs, and junior officers—including chaplains. The only military service they have ever known is one filled with upheavals, deployments, and wars. Many of these servicemembers feel at the breaking point—especially those who have deployed two–three–four times within the span of five or six years. How else can they interpret this, but as “typical for the military”? But God has a rest and return to normalcy for all of us. Perhaps that rest lies outside the military, but this is not necessarily so. The military has its ebbs as well as its flows. Times of recovery await you and God has a fruitful and fulfilling plan for your life. Don’t give up too soon on your profession and calling. And, please, never give up on life. God has happier days ahead for you.
An Israelite Hope
Think of how hopeless the enslaved Israelites felt when God sent Moses to them, promising them deliverance from the Egyptians? “All we have ever known is slavery to our masters. Why should we hope for something better?” And, when they found themselves trapped between the charging Egyptian Army on one side and the Red Sea on the other, it seemed the worst of their fears had come upon them. But God assured them, “The Egyptians you see this day, you will never see again” (Exodus 14:13–14). God then opened the Red Sea for Israel’s escape but sent it crashing down upon the pursuing Egyptians to destroy them. As God promised, they never saw the oppressive Egyptians again.
God can do the same for you. Just when you think you’ve finally learned to expect the worst, God pours out His best into your life. Your future comes from God’s loving hand and that future is a bright one.
Dear Father in heaven, please bring healing to my heart, my marriage, and my family. Restore to me what deployment and war have taken. Fill my heart with hope for myself, my family, and my future. In the sacred name of Jesus, I ask this, Amen.
In article photos in order of appearance: USS Coronado is underway in formation with ships from the Royal Thai Navy. by U.S. Navy Page licensed under CC BY 2.0
Red vs. Blue by the U.S. Marines licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0