Thursday, April 12, 2012

Titanic Faith

 by Susanne Dietze

One hundred years ago today, 2,224 people were two days into their voyage aboard the Titanic across the Atlantic Ocean, blissfully unaware of —

You all know this already, of course! People have been fascinated by the sinking of the luxury liner ever since. Crowds flock to view the artifacts and pieces of wreckage culled from the ocean floor on display at several locations across the world.

Pocketwatch stopped at 2:28, shortly after the sinking

My family visited one such exhibit last July at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. As we wandered through the rooms, we were moved by the surprisingly-well preserved artifacts on display. The ink on papers—sheets of music, money, letters—hadn't bled or faded. Unbroken dishes still sat in their crates. Remarkably, thousands of items had not been noticeably altered by the sinking, unlike the two thousand lives.

Naturally, when one visits this sort of exhibit, one thinks of death and tragedy and how such a terrible thing could have been avoided. Playing the "If Only" Game, I call it.

Some of my thoughts as I wandered the exhibit:

If only the crew hadn't shown such hubris and ignored warnings of ice from other ships in the area, the Titanic might have slowed down or taken an alternate heading, avoiding the tragedy.
If only the binoculars hadn’t been left behind in England, the watchmen might have seen the iceberg in time.

If only there had been a sliver of moon to illumine the view, none of this would have happened.

If only the Titanic hadn’t been going so fast, if only there had been more lifeboats, if only the nearby ship, the Californian, had responded to distress signals, if only….

If only one thing had changed, lives might have been spared.

Then I realized something about myself. I play this game all too often with the unpleasant events in my life.

Do you ever play this game with your life? Sometimes, when seasons of pain take hold, we humans tend to look back and wonder what we could've done to prevent our present circumstances.

If only X hadn’t happened, then Y wouldn’t have happened, and then I’d be ok.

Sometimes this is true. If only a parent hadn’t died, or a job wasn’t lost, or an illness hadn’t struck, many of our lives would look blessedly different.

But in other circumstances, “if only” doesn’t help at all. It's a blame-game with more suction than the sinking of a ship, and allowing ourselves to be pulled into it only drowns us in sorrow, anger, or bitterness. "If only" has a way of victimizing us, and there's often not room for forgiveness, grace, or looking toward God to work His will.

Instead of asking, "if only," a better question might be, what does God want you to do with where you are now?

I've been studying the Apostle Paul lately in Bible study. Here was a zealous Jew who hated Christians, and he was responsible for their deaths. Then, shazam! He was called by the Lord Himself to be His servant.

Paul may have had cause to play the "if only" game in the seasons following his conversion. "If only I hadn't persecuted God's people...if only I hadn't made those enormous mistakes...if only..."

But that's not what Scripture tells us. We're told Paul repented and served God with wholehearted focus. He didn't deny his sins,  but he didn't wallow in guilt once he was forgiven, either. He didn't allow the past to define him. Paul saw himself as a new creation in Christ with a brand new job to do, and aren't we glad he did it?

So perhaps when we are tempted to play the "if only" game, we should instead ask:

Who are the people in your life? What are your responsibilities to them? What does God want you to do about the circumstances you're facing, especially considering He's right alongside you and has promised to work all things for His good?

We can’t control others’ behavior. We can’t control circumstance, nature, or tragedy. But we can let God use the ups and downs we face to His purpose, even when it hurts. We can please God exactly where we are, without allowing ourselves to look back and wonder “if only,” if we’re focused on Him and where He's leading us.

As for playing Armchair "if only" on the Titanic... It turns out that neither binoculars nor a full moon might have helped the watchmen on the Titanic view the iceberg any sooner. A new theory reported in Smithsonian Magazine suggests an optical phenomenon called super refraction might well have occurred that night, causing false horizons and mirages to take place on a night when a stratified air distorted visual cues. If this was the case, it explains why the Titanic didn't see the iceberg earlier, and why the Californian didn't see Titanic's distress signals or flares.

“If only” might not have changed a thing on the Titanic. No one can know for sure.

But I guarantee that by showing titanic faith in God, who promises to stay with us and help us right where we are, can change everything.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. -Our friend Paul, Philippians 3:13-14

Today on Tea and a Good Book, I tell the Titanic survivor's story of a stolen baby! I hope you can visit!

 Susanne Dietze has written love stories since she was in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and spending time with family and friends. She won first place in the Historical category of the 2011-2012 Phoenix Rattler, and her work has finaled in the Genesis, Gotcha!, and Touched By Love Contests. You can visit her on her personal blog, Tea and a Good Book,

photos from


  1. "But in other circumstances, “if only” doesn’t help at all. It's a blame-game with more suction than the sinking of a ship, and allowing ourselves to be pulled into it only drowns us in sorrow, anger, or bitterness. "If only" has a way of victimizing us, and there's often not room for forgiveness, grace, or looking toward God to work His will."

    OK, that's just a powerful statement that's going to stay with me a while. I'll have to ruminate on that. Great post!

  2. Agreed, Barb. Beautifully written Susie. I think the If Only game tends to happen when we think we have more power or control that we do.

    Imagine all the if only statements from passengers and their families. If only I hadn't ... so and so would be alive. Paul's example of not wallowing in guilt and what ifs is wonderful. I need this lesson often when my 'what ifs' weigh heavily.
    A beautifully worded post Susie. thank you!

  3. Barb, I was writing to myself ;)

    Some "if only's" may be helpful. I don't want to be on my deathbed, saying, "if only I'd loved these people more, done more..." So I'm working at taking preventative measures so I don't say those things!

    Thank you, Barb.

  4. Ah Deb, I play the "what if" game even more often than the "if only" game. In my case, the "what if" game is a fear of the present and future, as opposed to an oppression by the past.

    But God wants us to be free, free, free. I don't know what Paul did those 7 years in the dessert, and maybe he did spend some time beating himself up over his sin. But he got up and served, despite beatings, trauma, fear, hunger, and suffering. I pray to be like him.

  5. Yes, it's such a tragedy. So many tiny things added up to disaster.

    "For want of a nail . . . "

    But you're right. God wants us to put the "if onlys" aside and move forward.

    Great post!

  6. DeAnna, so many tiny things did happen that night! Ugh, so sad, it's incredible.

    Your post on the Titanic passengers was so moving. There was a lot of generosity, sacrifice, and courage that night.

  7. Oh, thanks so much. There are so many great Titanic stories. I never get tired of them. :)

  8. Wonderful post, Susie! I am inspired again to leave the past behind and keep my eyes on the prize!

  9. If only....

    Guilty! This post hit me right where I live. If only I hadn't done this or that. whenever I get going on that particular unmerry-go-round, I tend to forget God has already forgiven me.

    Susie, I had no idea about the Smithsonian mirage theory. Fascinating.

    Great post!

  10. I'm enjoying all the Titanic remembrances this week, including a very well done Facebook group party that is reenacting the journey with various people playing the roles of passengers. So much research has gone into it. our friend Lilly Maytree is doing a bang-up job on her blog.
    And I'm enjoying the live tweets as well.
    I feel a bit better knowing I'm not alone in my fascination, but what an amazing, emotional story.

    Thanks again Susie!

  11. Hey Karl! I appreciate how well you focus on the prize. Thanks for coming by.

  12. Suzie, I had never heard of the mirage theory before I saw the Smithsonian article. But there was something in the newspaper today about it. Totally remarkable theory, isn't it? And sad, too. But it explains why the California said it didn't see the flares, and their lamp communications with the Titanic didn't go well.

    As for the un-merry-go-round, well, I'm on it, too. It helps to have reminders that we don't need to be!

  13. Deb, I wish I could have been a part of the Titanic FB group, but oh, what a week it's been. I'm glad you're learning a lot and enjoying all the tweets. You'll have to share what you've learned!


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