Lessons from Titanic

The Titanic was 'the ship of dreams'. A huge ocean liner the length of three football pitches, she was to be the biggest and most luxurious ship in the world.

Tragically, her maiden voyage was to be her last. A mixture of complacency, bad decisions and bad luck caused Titanic to sink after striking an iceberg in mid Atlantic. The parallels between the sinking of the titanic and the struggles of many people with the typical challenges of life are quite striking.


The dictionary defines complacency as 'an excessive feeling of self-satisfaction' and 'the contentment one feels when one has fulfilled a desire, need, or expectation.' The White Star Line (builders of Titanic) were self-satisfied. They had build the world's largest and most luxurious ocean liner capable of transporting 3547 people across the ocean in style and at a good speed. But in their complacency they forgot that even a ship with watertight compartments could theoretically sink if enough of those compartments became flooded. That is exactly what happened. 

How many times have you become complacent? I know that I have. And just as the Bible teaches 'pride comes before a fall' its is the same with complacency, which is really a form of pride. I started a new church once with just my wife and three children. It took off very quickly and became popular within months. In two years it was doing really well. With a hundred people to look after, I hastily appointed extra leaders, forgetting what Jesus taught that 'wolves' can sneak in and destroy a 'flock'. That is pretty much what happened and as I look back I realise that disaster could have been avoided. I guess we have all been there at some point in our lives. But when a fall comes, Jesus will always be there to pick us up if we will just put our faith in him and allow him to help.

Complacency in the Titanic situation led to only a third of the lifeboats being on board. 62 would have been needed to rescue a full passenger compliment. The chief designer said 48, which would still have been enough for the passengers on board on 14th April 1912 to have been rescued. There were actually only 20 lifeboats on board because the owners were over confident. 

I've made similar mistakes and I guess you have too. Sometimes we don't plan for every scenario because we are too complacent, too sure that 'it won't happen'. Then it does! I once ran out of petrol because I was too confident that the tiny drop left in the fuel tank was enough to get the children to school. In my case little harm was done except they children were very late for school as I had to cycle to the petrol station with a petrol can in a rucksack! But a friend of mine almost froze to death because he was only wearing a shirt in his warm car in sub zero conditions. He wasn't expecting his car to break down on a journey of just a few miles. Complacency can kill, and on Titanic it certainly did. We need to be careful that we are prepared for the possibilities of danger, even if they are unlikely.


Another problem with Titanic was that the inexperienced crew did not expect the ship to react the way it did when confronted with an impending collision. If they had understood that the ship needed much longer to turn than the smaller ships they had been used to, and if they had understood how the watertight bulkheads work, then they would have hit the iceberg head on. Despite serious damage, experts agree that the ship would have stayed afloat and all on board would have been saved. Inexperience, and possibly lack of training, meant that they tried to steer around the iceberg, but the ship would not turn quick enough and the fact that the 'berg ripped along the side opening up virtually all of the watertight compartments meant certain disaster. 

Is that not sometimes what happens with us? We need to face challenges head on, but too often we try to skirt around issues and the tend to come back and bite harder! Jesus promised to be with whatever we face if we will only open up our lives to him. He promised to help, to lead, to guide, to set us free. All too often we refuse to confront the issues that have held us back for years because we think we can skirt around them and carry on. It was only when a friend of mine (a priest) asked for God's help, confronting his alcohol problem head on, that he was able to be free of the drug that had enslaved him for many years. In fact, he became so free that he was able to take the communion, and finish what was left, without it tempting him to have any more to drink. Now that is the kind of freedom that only Jesus can bring.

It Takes Courage

Finally, only one of twenty lifeboats went back to save those who were drowning, despite that fact that most of the lifeboats were only half full. So what would we do? An experiment showing a schoolgirl being abducted and dragged into a car revealed that the majority of people watching did nothing to help - they would not intervene! God gives us courage. The stories of David and Goliath, Gideon and 

The Titanic disaster may have happened over a century ago, but the lessons we can learn from the tragedy are of eternal significance. Jesus did not promise that we would never face challenges and problems. Just the opposite - he actually said "in this world you will have trouble" - but he also added, "But take heart, I have overcome the world." Every person reading this lives in the world. We can all face bereavement, job loss, wayward children, business collapse or illness. Jesus didn't promise to take every challenge away, but he did promise to go through every challenge with us. The old saying 'a problem shared is a problem halved' is even more powerful when we realise that God, who is all powerful and all knowing, is prepared to face every problem with us. This includes the problems we have created ourselves!