On February 20, 1962, at 9:47 A.M., the spacecraft Friendship 7 rose on a pillar of fire, piloted by lone astronaut John Glenn. Leaving the coast of Florida far behind, the space capsule orbited the earth three times, traveling 81,000 miles in less than four hours. As the craft began its descent from space, mission controllers in Houston received a warning signal. A sensor indicated that the capsule’s heat shield was in danger of detaching. If the heat shield came loose during reentry, the capsule would burn like a meteor–and John Glenn would die.
Because radio waves cannot penetrate plasma, the spacecraft experienced a total communications blackout–what astronauts and mission controllers call a “black hole”.
The minutes crawled by and the suspense mounted in the Houston control room. NASA engineers felt totally helpless. Finally, after five minutes of silence, mission controllers heard Glenn’s voice crackling over the radio: “Friendship 7 to Houston?”
Shouts of joy shook the control room. John Glenn was coming home. Although neither Glenn nor the mission controllers knew it at the time, the heat shield was absolutely firm and reliable. The fears for John Glenn’s safety during his black hole experience were unfounded.
If you’ve ever been through a major crisis, you probably know what a communications “black hole” feels like. While you are in the pit of adversity, you feel that your world is collapsing, that your life is out of control–and that God is silent. The silence of a black hole is deafening. You feel isolated and alone. You question God’s love, His care for you, and even His existence.
But even when it seems that God is distant and silent, your “heat shield” is still there, firm and reliable. In your black hole experience, God is teaching you to go deeper into your relationship with Him. You may think that your life is out of control and burning like a meteor, but in reality God, your heat shield, still protects you from the fiery forces that surround you.