Working the Problem

The blurry sleepiness that was clouding Colonel Hadfield’s vision suddenly cleared with a jolt as he realized what was happening. He had been sleeping soundly until he suddenly heard a deafening horn blaring in his ears. He felt a cold chill down his back as he realized that it was the fire alarm. He quickly unstrapped himself from his sleeping pod and gathered with his fellow astronauts in the Russian quarters of the International Space Station to begin working the problem. He and his fellows had gone through simulated training procedures like this many times, but now they had the added urgency that this was real. But they didn’t panic. They checked all of their systems, thinking it may have been an overly hot wire, then radioed to mission control to check it on their end. After several more checks, they figured out that it was just a malfunctioning alarm. When I read this, I was amazed that he said no one was anxious. He said that the astronauts gathered with a feeling of “focused curiosity,” ready to check this new situation out (Hadfield 55-56). Didn’t they consider the possibility that there may be hungry flames engulfing the station? It crossed their minds, but they approached the situation with calmness and poise because they had worked through so many potential problems before. Chris Hadfield talks about how they literally practice every single task and process in the mission until it’s performed perfectly. That includes every potential malfunction, mistake, problem, disaster, what have you. Sometimes this takes hundreds of sessions in the simulators over a period of several weeks. But they work it until they get it right. When an alarm sounds, they aren’t racing frantically through the scenarios in their minds wondering what they’re going to meet. They know they’ve prepared for every glitch as thoroughly as NASA knows how and they have dozens of support personnel ready to help (Hadfield 56). They can rest assured that something catching them off-guard is extremely unlikely. And this knowledge gives them confidence. As Hadfield points out in the book, taking special care will save many disasters later on.

            In Matthew 24:4, Jesus answers the disciples’ question about the end of Jerusalem and the end of the world by saying, “Take heed that no one deceives you…” That first phrase, “Take heed,” or some versions say, “Watch out,” or, “Be careful,” tells us that having a heightened attentiveness and awareness is a big part of staying faithful and avoiding deception. But taking special care doesn’t just involve attentiveness, we also need to have a sense of what we’re watching out for. The Bible gives us a huge stash of lessons and guidelines in the stories it shares throughout the Old and New Testaments. These aren’t really simulations in the astronaut’s use of the word—these were real-life events that had real consequences. But they are similar in the sense that we can look back on them and glean lessons for future decision-making. Praise God for the instruction revealed in His Word!


Hadfield, Chris. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. Toronto, Ontario: Random House Canada, 2013. Print.