“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted. And saves those who are crushed in spirit.” – Psalms 34:18.

Every life has a story, it is just that some are a little more interesting than others. Louis Zamperini, on the other hand is quite a story. That story is told in the movie Unbroken. Unbroken is a World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption.  The film begins with the trouble-making son of Italian immigrants, chronicles his unlikely and meteoric rise to fame as an Olympian, displays some of the unspeakable horrors of war, and highlights the resilience and strength even weak men can have in the face of agonizing pain and unrelenting terror. After a plane crash into the ocean, Louie and two fellow soldiers were trapped on a raft for 47 days before they were captured by the Japanese. The Bird — the military officer who held and mercilessly tortured Louie — is sadistic.

After the war, Louie returned to his childhood home in California. He returned home unable to shake the memories of his Japanese torturer. His life began to spiral out of control. He decided he could only find peace if he killed the Bird. He invested all his family’s money trying to scrape together enough to finance his murderous dream. Bloody vengeance against Mutsuhiro Watanbe had become an obsession.

Everything changed in the fall of 1949. Billy Graham led Louie Zamperini to the Lord. He was not the worthless, broken, forsaken man that the Bird had strived to make of him. In a single, silent moment, his rage, his fear, his humiliation and helplessness, had fallen away. That morning, he believed, he was a new creation. His thirst for revenge was swept away.

Louie visited the prison where so many bad memories were created. He stood there and looked into the eyes of the very men who had tortured him. He was face to face with the men who caused his pain and humiliation. How did he respond? Not the way you, or the Japanese guards expected him to behave. Louie was seized by childlike, giddy exuberance. In bewilderment, the men who had abused him watched him come to them, his hands extended, a radiant smile on his face.  He was different thanks to Jesus and was ready to forgive those who had caused him so much pain. 

The book documents a letter Louie wrote to the Bird: “As a result of my prisoner of war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment, my post-war life became a nightmare. . . . But thanks to a confrontation with God through the evangelist Billy Graham, I committed my life to Christ. Love replaced the hate I had for you.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. You may know nothing about Louis Zamperini, but based on Sunday’s message, what words would you use to describe him?
  2. Think about a time in your life when you struggled with something you didn’t think you could overcome. How were you able to get through it? Did you see God’s power at work through your situation?
  3. Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive?
  4. Pray and ask God to help you have proper perspective in your trials. Pray that He would be glorified through your struggle, and ask Him for strength to persevere. Thank Him for His faithfulness, even when you cannot see Him working.