Some years ago during the brief four years we taught at home, our curriculum contrasted two poems. The first was “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Out of the light that dazzles me,
Bright as the sun from pole to pole,
I thank the God I know to be,
For Christ – the Conqueror of my soul.
Since His the sway of circumstance,
I would not wince nor cry aloud.
Under the rule which men call chance,
My head, with joy, is humbly bowed.
Beyond this place of sin and tears,
That Life with Him and His the Aid,
That, spite the menace of the years,
Keeps, and will keep me unafraid.
I have no fear though straight the gate:
He cleared from punishment the scroll.
Christ is the Master of my fate!
Christ is the Captain of my soul!
My son at that time had a problem with wanting to yield the captaincy of his fate to Another. That’s understandable. We’re born with an intense self-will. We’re hesitant to trust someone else with our destiny. We want to make our own choices.
But once when I did a lengthy study on one’s “own” way in the Bible, I found that following our own way didn’t usually turn out well. Here are just a couple of examples:
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6
“The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied from above.” Proverbs 14:14.
I didn’t realize until looking for these poems online that a handwritten copy of “Invictus” was the only statement Timothy McVeigh left behind when he was executed (see here). Invictus means “unconquerable.” How sad to remain unconquered only to come to such an end. “Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices” Proverbs 1:31.
It’s one of those seeming paradoxes of Scripture that “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it” (Luke 17:33). Whatever we want to hold onto for ourselves we will eventually lose. What we yield to Christ He will keep for us and give back so much more.
There is good reason to trust Christ as our Captain. He knows what is ahead. He has the wisdom to guide us. He has the power to keep us. When the path passes through deep waters or dark shadows, He promises to be with us and uphold us. He loves us so much that He gave His own life for us and has promised to provide for everything we need, not only physically but spiritually. He is the only One Who can provide for us beyond the grave. He is more than worthy of our Captaincy and our trust.