Louis Zamperini was a well-know Olympian when WWII broke out, and he became a member of the Air Force in the South Pacific. He had renewed fame while in his 90s as the marvelously written book Unbroken told his story about his plane crash and survival in the open sea on a life raft, only to be captured and tortured by the enemy. After the war—and after his conversion—Louis went back and forgave his captors. Laura Hildebrand worked for seven years to tell Louis’ story. They developed a friendship in absentia, because Laura suffers from a severe case of chronic fatigue and rarely leaves her home. Zamperini didn’t know all of this when they were conversing via the phone. Later, when he found out how long she had been suffering, Louis sent her his purple heart and said, “I sent her one of my Purple Hearts. I said, “You deserve this more than me. You have suffered for 30 years.'” Later, when Louis made a trip to New York, he was able to meet Laura in person. I suppose it would be impossible to calculate the level of a person’s suffering, but we can celebrate the fact that Louis, who suffered so much, could be so compassionate as to encourage someone who suffered in a very different way.
View more sermon illustrations for inspiration for your next message.