“For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.”    Romans 3:20-24.

When you watch the movie or read the book, Unbroken seems a fitting title. Unbroken is the journey of a remarkable man, Louis Zamperini. It is a tale of daring, defiance, persistence, ingenuity, and the ferocious will of a man who refused to be broken. In the book and the movie, Louie’s unlikely, inspiring story comes alive. It makes you wonder at what point can a person be broken.

The bullies he faced in high school in the 1920’s couldn’t break him, although they tried. The injustice done to him by other runners as he raced to beat records didn’t break him. The severe homesickness that accompanied his military service couldn’t break him. His plane crash into the Pacific on May 27, 1943 didn’t break him. Some 47 days drifting on a raft in the ocean couldn’t break him. The sharks that attacked him from the water while the Japanese strafed his raft from the sky didn’t break him. Burying a fellow soldier at sea couldn’t break him. A storm that nearly swamped his raft didn’t break him. Surviving on rainwater, fish, and seabirds until he was picked up by a Japanese patrol boat didn’t break him. His Japanese captors who taunted and tortured and nearly starved him for two and a half years couldn’t break him. The mental agonies stirred up by the tortures of “The Bird” haunted him, but didn’t break him. But, eventually, Louie was broken.

On September 1949, at a Billy Graham crusade, Jesus Christ broke him. Billy Graham came to Los Angeles for a three-week campaign to bring the city to Christ. Louie was reluctant to attend but did go and on the second day he came forward to receive Christ. Here is his account: “I dropped to my knees and for the first time in my life truly humbled myself before the Lord. I asked him to forgive me for not having kept the promises I’d made during the war, and for my sinful life. I made no excuses. I did not rationalize, I did not blame. He had said, ‘whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,’ so I took him at His word, begged for His pardon, and asked Jesus to come into my life.”

Louie’s conversion put his entire life in context. The Lord’s sovereign work in saving Louie—in breaking him with a reality of his sin and turning him toward Christ in faith—made sense of all that had gone before and all that followed.

In short, the story of Louie Zamperini is that of a man unbroken by war, but broken by grace. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does the word “grace” mean to you?
  2. Are there circumstances /events in your life that have led you to where you are now? Or in other words, do you believe God’s grace is transformational? 
  3. Do you have difficulty with the idea of being broken in order to be made whole?
  4. How can I model God’s gift of grace in my life?