It was dark, damp, and cold. One leg was jammed up against her face. She was just waking up and had no idea where she was or how she got there. She couldn’t move. It was like her body was cocooned in a sleeve of concrete. Panic set in, then cries of terror, then hopelessness. Her world was turned upside down. Nothing made sense.
Her mother could hear a cry. She looked in the direction Jessica should have been, yet no one was there. Where could she have gone? Mom walked toward the sound. Still no sign of little Jessica. It was like she was all around her and yet nowhere at the same time. Mom took one more step in the direction of the cries and jammed her foot in a hole. She looked down but couldn’t see anything. And then the crying came. Her eighteen-month-old daughter was down there somewhere.
It was 1987 in west Texas. Jessica McClure had fallen into an abandoned well shaft, only eight-inches wide at the mouth, just wide enough for her to become stuck, her body wedged against itself, over twenty feet below ground. Firefighters rushed to the scene but couldn’t figure out how to get her out. If they tried attaching something to her, they could tear her body apart if they pulled too hard. If they started digging down to her, the rubble might bury her alive, or loosen her and send her farther down the well.
Some oil workers from the area proposed a solution: dig a hole next to the one she was in, then cut a tunnel across. This plan also had risks, but it was the best option. One thing was for sure, the clock was ticking. The greater risk was doing nothing. How long could she survive?
Within hours equipment was brought in and the work began. Progress was slow but steady. Experts estimated they only had about 48 hours to reach her; would they make it? They finally reached the depth to cut across to her, and carefully began the lateral move. Jessica had been quiet for a while now, and her mom wondered if she was still alive. When there was a break in the drilling she listened for any sound, anything at all. Then she heard a soft voice singing Winnie the Pooh, Winnie the Pooh.
After 45 hours of digging, and 58 hours stuck underground, they reached Jessica and pulled her free. She would spend time in the hospital recovering, and many surgeries were needed on the foot held above her head the entire time, but she would survive.
I Peter 5:10 says, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
One can only imagine the unbearable amount of suffering she must have endured in that hole in the ground. Yet eventually her suffering ended, she was rescued, restored to her family, and strengthened to be able to live a normal life. In fact, Jessica, herself a mother today, was so young when it happened, she has no memory of the event. One day, when she was five years old, she saw a TV special about a little girl trapped in a well. She said to her mom how sorry she felt for that little girl. Then her mom broke the news, “Jessica, that little girl was you.”
When was a time you experienced suffering that seemed unbearable in the moment?
Parents – don’t put any pressure on anyone to share. This might be a difficult question to answer. If you have a lighter example to break the ice, something less tragic, say, than being stuck underground for over two days? That would be great.
Thank you God for working in our lives. Thank you for meeting us in the midst of our suffering and for restoring us. Help us to keep looking to you in the midst of the challenges for wisdom and direction. May we always trust you to guide us through the challenging circumstances we encounter.