Louis Zamperini was an inspirational faith-filled man that led a life of tragedy and triumph. His life story was first brought to the public in 2010 through a non-fiction book written by Laura Hillenbrand named “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.” The book of Zamperini’s harrowing tale flew off the shelves and led to the creation of the Academy Award Winning movie “Unbroken” directed by Angelina Jolie. The spread of Zamperini’s story doesn’t stop there, this year the sequel to the movie, “Unbroken: Path to Redemption” is set to be released.
“Unbroken: Path to Redemption” focuses on the redemptive power of Jesus Christ in Zamperini’s life. The movie is set to hit theaters on October 5th and is directed by Harold Cronk who also directed the faith-based movies “God’s Not Dead” and “God Bless the Broken Road.”
Zamperini’s story begins in great tragedy. While the former Olympic athlete was serving our country during World War II, his plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean leaving him raft bound at sea for 47 days in shark-infested waters. It was then that the Japanese found him and took him to what they called Execution Island where he was tortured as a Prisoner of War. The Japanese guards attempted to take his life, starving and beating him, but Zamperini persevered, and after two years he was free.
Unfortunately, the brutal days he faced in the camp continued to haunt him after his return to the United States, driving a wedge between him and his wife. He developed PTSD which led to violent nightmares, deep depression, alcoholism, and bitterness. Zamperini’s life and marriage were up against all the odds when he attended the 1949 Billy Graham Crusade. He says that it was that conference that forever changed the course of his existence. Billy Graham preached about the power of forgiveness, and Zamperini found salvation. His marriage was saved, and his life was transformed. Zamperini explained that after finding Christ, his depression lifted and the nightmares stopped.
Later in his life, he was even able to return to Japan to forgive some of the guards who had tortured him as a Prisoner of War. Of forgiveness, Zamperini said, “I think the hardest thing in life is to forgive. Hate is self-destructive. If you hate somebody, you’re not hurting the person. You’re hurting yourself. That’s a healing. That’s a real healing. Forgiveness.”
Upon one of his trips to Japan, Zamperini sought to forgive one of the most abusive war criminals, “the Bird.” When he found out that the former guard had passed, he wrote a letter of forgiveness to him that he shared with Greg Laurie. In part Zamperini’s letter to the Bird said,
“The post-war life caused my life to crumble, but thanks to a confrontation with God through the evangelist Billy Graham, I committed my life to Christ. Love replaced the hate I had for you and Christ even said love your enemies and pray for them.”
Through his actions, Zamperini became an example of how to display the forgiveness that Christ freely gave to us to others who in his case abused him nearly to death. Ephesians 4:31-32 asks that we put aside all forms of anger by forgiving,
“31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Has there been someone in your life that hurt you badly emotionally, physically, or spiritually? Letting go of the hurt and forgiving can sometimes seem like the hardest thing to do, but it’s through that process that the redemptive power of Christ is made manifest and healing is accepted. If you answered yes, below is a helpful prayer written by Kristine Brown for forgiving others. The prisoner that is freed by forgiveness is you.
Dear merciful Father,
Thank you for your gift of forgiveness. Your only Son loved me enough to come to earth and experience the worst pain imaginable so I could be forgiven. Your mercy flows to me in spite of my faults and failures. Your Word says to “clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” (Col. 3:14) Help me demonstrate unconditional love today, even to those who hurt me.
I understand that even though I feel scarred, my emotions don’t have to control my actions. Father, may Your sweet words saturate my mind and direct my thoughts. Help me release the hurt and begin to love as Jesus loves. I want to see my offender through my Savior’s eyes. If I can be forgiven, so can he. I understand there are no levels to your love. We are all your children, and your desire is that none of us should perish.
You teach us to “let the peace that comes from Christ rule in our hearts.” (Col. 3:15) When I forgive in words, allow your Holy Spirit to fill my heart with peace. I pray this peace that only comes from Jesus will rule in my heart, keeping out doubt and questions. And above all, I am thankful. Not just today, not just this week, but always. Thank you for the reminder, “Always be thankful.” (Col. 3:15) With gratitude, I can draw closer to you and let go of unforgiveness. With gratitude, I can see the person who caused my pain as a child of the Most High God. Loved and accepted. Help me find the compassion that comes with true forgiveness.
And when I see the person who hurt me, bring this prayer back to my remembrance, so I can take any ungodly thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. (2 Cor. 10:5) And may the confidence of Christ in my heart guide me into the freedom of forgiveness. I praise you for the work you are doing in my life, teaching and perfecting my faith.
In Jesus name,