Surviving Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why?

Podcast Episode 057

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The owner of the company maintained his poker face; it was not simply for the card game. This was the face he now donned for every public moment in these dark days. He was in trouble, and under no circumstances would he let it show. The investments he had made in the good times were now worthless. Ever since the waves of panic and the dread of complete collapse had gripped the region, commerce had careened to a violent stop; his tenants had no means of making money, much less paying him. Who knew when the next dollar would come? The economy was like concrete—it had moved well when it was wet, but now the scorching heat of oversupply, panic, and free-fall had dried it up overnight. Later, people would swear they had seen the terror behind his eyes. But in those first dreadful days, they had refused to admit it even to themselves.

This story isn’t from 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a glimpse of the grim inner reality of a landlord and investor in 1931, a paraphrase from a story told by Timothy Egan in his brilliant and award-winning book The Worst Hard Time.

In the early 1930s, a terrible collision of deadly drought, global economic instability, and the dire environmental consequences of man’s misuse of power gave rise to a cataclysm of dust storms that devastated the southern high plains of the U.S. Nothing like it had been seen before; and to this day, the total ruination of the ecosystem of the Great Plains is often credited as the worst environmental disaster of human history.

Not surprisingly, few lived to tell the story, or if they did, it was a story too painful or shameful to recount.

I can’t help but connect the stories in The Worst Hard Time with elements of our current global challenge. No one knows the outcome of these times in which we find ourselves. There is no crystal ball; there are no material guarantees. Yet by Grace there is a brilliant, kind Teacher who wants to guide us through all of it into Life. And there is a map of human history that can educate our souls to survive, to endure, and to make the way for future generations to thrive as a result of abiding wisdom applied in the midst of an unprecedented crisis.

Which brings me to a question: In times of crisis, when life shifts in some distinct ways from normal to survival, who lives, who dies, and why? Laurence Gonzales wrote a compelling, research-based narrative exploring the mystery behind this question in his fascinating book Deep Survival.

In the hope of offering some soul-strengthening counsel from shapers among us as well as shapers of old, my aim in this podcast is to pause and consider some very practical aspects of “surviving survival” that we could lean into today in order to become even more the kind of men who can receive life and bring life, in partnership with God, for such a time as this.

Specifically, I highlight 10 ideas that can help us first receive love and then lead in love, even in this uncertain hour.

Friends, let us stand together, holding onto the hope that Paul expressed to the community of God’s people in Galatia: the hope that we who have chosen to receive the gift of God’s generously available life are given the resources we need for union with God and to express our faith in love. Not in our own strength, but in union with the Trinity today. Paul assured us that we do have direct access to remarkable qualities of God’s own life and experience:

Joy that overflows,
Peace that subdues,
Patience that endures,
Kindness in action,
a life full of virtue,
Faith that prevails,
Gentleness of heart, and
Strength of spirit.

(Galatians 5:22-23, The Passion Translation)

And in the midst of these unique times, may we both receive and offer this kind of faith-filled life into our spheres of influence. May the fruit of our union with God be so nourishing and strengthening to those around us that the world will know that God is with us and we will not be shaken.

As One,


P.S. As shared in the podcast: Want to join Cherie and me for 30 minutes of refreshment and soul centering? It’d be a great gift to your spouse or nourishment for you or even a mid-day date! All you’ll need is a quiet space where you can center in God and move your body in a comfortable space. Grab an exercise mat if you have one.

Join us April 9th at 11:55am MT:

Meeting ID: 425 375 870
If you’re new to Zoom, you can find helpful instructions HERE.

In the podcast I reference the following books that I’ve found incredibly helpful:


Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, by Laurence Gonzales


Life Without Lack, by Dallas Willard


The Worst Hard Time, by Tim Egan

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