It took every ounce of bravery I could muster to sit in the front seat of the car again (and even longer to get behind the wheel). I couldn’t bear to cross an intersection without holding on for dear life or flinching or even crying out “watch out!” Two short days before this courageous return to an automobile, barely showing at 16 weeks pregnant with my first child, my life had literally flashed before my eyes as I saw the pick-up I was driving slam directly into another vehicle that had come out of nowhere and given me no time to stop.
“So this is how I die,” is the last thing I remember thinking before hearing that awful metal crashing and the pop of the airbag.
“I’m pregnant!” I began screaming as I realized I still had life in me and scrambled out of my mangled pick-up. I knew I had to stay calm for the baby’s sake. I prayed aloud that God would send me an angel. Next thing I knew, I was standing on the side of the road accompanied by two middle aged women. One wore a pale yellow T-shirt that said “Praise the Lord.” Later, when asked where they came from they simply replied, “We’re from out of town.”
I didn’t leave a lunch date with my dad that day on my way back to work, headed for a disastrous car wreck thinking “what if I get in a wreck?” And if I had, would it have changed anything? The things we worry about seldom come to pass. Sudden disasters just happen. We don’t need to walk around worrying about them. When disaster strikes, God is faithful. Afterwards, only He gives the strength to carry on. Holding on to a verse of Psalm 91:11 (NIV) “He will command His angels concerning you” enabled me to get back into a vehicle after that wreck (and it’s come in handy in so many Chinese taxis).
Just about a year later, we arrived in China with that same baby who survived the car wreck with me. I stood on the twentieth floor of the tallest building on campus in my new home the university had assigned to us. There were six metal fire doors and two elevator doors (or 19 flights of stairs and two more sets of fire doors) between me and the only unlocked single-entry doorway to the outside. I felt trapped inside the labyrinth of steel and metal and concrete, buried deep within the bowels of a death-trap. As I stared across the vast silhouette of the foreign city I’d signed up to live in for at least the next two years, my breath caught inside my chest and refused to escape.
“What if there’s an earthquake?” I wondered it so loudly inside my brain, but somehow no one else could hear it.
Gripped with fear of the unknown and the possible, the “what if” wouldn’t leave me. A few days later, as I dug into scripture, I caught a glimpse of a verse given to me as a relief from God. Proverbs 3:25 says “Have no fear of sudden disaster…” (NIV). This is not an academic paper divulging all acceptable applications of that verse or the previously mentioned Psalm, and I’m not sure it would pass as acceptable to a Bible scholar. All I’m saying is those words jumped off the page and stuck in my heart as the calming voice of the Holy Spirit whispered “Do not live in fear of sudden disaster.” I could finally exhale. God’s in charge. God’s got this. I will not live in fear of sudden disaster.
I have tasted trauma, and I know how fast things can go from just fine to totally not okay like the day I turned around and found my boy bleeding from the head after a collision with an absent minded bike rider just steps away from the playground. Sometimes I catch myself imagining some sort of catastrophe scenario (usually while I’m crossing a busy street with three kids in China), but then my heart jumps back to the remembrance that God asks us to live without fear of sudden disaster and without the constant “what if” scenarios our imaginations can throw at us. I know so many of my own invention…
What if this plane crashes into the sea and I have to sing lullabies to my baby on the way down while trying not to completely lose it? What if I’m that person I know who dies in a plane crash?
What if the weather report is wrong and that typhoon does not die down from a category 5 but we’ve decided to take a trip to the Philippines based on the nonchalant attitude of the locals and the good weather forecast? What if the typhoon actually takes a turn for the worst and me and my babies are going to drown in a traffic jam in Manila?
What if the sofa we just purchased has harmful glue in it just like my friend warned me and we all get cancer and die next month?
What if the milk is tainted and my baby loses all kidney function for the rest of his life?
What if this fever he’s been fighting for six days doesn’t leave him and I have to take him to a Chinese hospital to get an IV in his head, or worse and it’s too late?
Looking back on that day when all my what ifs about my babies weren’t yet conceived because the first one was only 16 weeks along, I couldn’t have added a single hour to my own life or his by worrying about what if I get in a “high-speed head-on collision” on my way back to the office after a lunch date with Dad. There’s peace that surpasses all understanding that covers all my what ifs: God is in control. He doesn’t promise disaster will never find me, but He does promise He’ll never leave me nor forsake me. He is a very present help in time of need. And that’s why my what ifs will not consume me.
Do you have “what if” questions that cause you to live in sudden fear of disaster?
Which of God’s promises can you lean on to set you free of your fear?