Looking Back on a Sudden Disaster

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?

11 Comments

  1. Bec March 29, 2016

    M’Lynn, I don’t know how to express myself, except that I feel like the Father had you share those words specifically for me…not to sound selfish, as I know they have most certainly spoken straight to the hearts of others as well, but I just want to thank Him! for answering me, that I would be able to begin to see victory over some of these fears that have been crowding around my heart.  The fears that you shared – the “what-ifs” are exact ones that I have asked…do ask (we return to our home in China in just a few weeks…) and I’m thankful to know that I’m not the only one who has struggled through these and has had to Choose Rest in him.  Thank you for openly sharing your heart – he has used it greatly to minister to mine!

    1. M'Lynn March 30, 2016

      Bec, your words have blessed me in return. Thank you…and praise God for using us all to encourage one another.

  2. Elizabeth March 30, 2016

    Oh M’Lynn, this is so me. I used to be so afraid of all these things. I call them “seizure coma death” moments, because I always go straight to death and maiming as a consequence of everything, including this week when I thought my kid might have a snake or spider bite, and that even in spite of the fact that there were no symptoms of a poisonous bite, I thought we needed to be prepared for the worst. (It was definitely a bite of some kind, just don’t know what. But the swelling is down, and she is fine. 🙂 ) Because I know this about myself I can mostly laugh at it when it happens nowadays. Didn’t used to be funny though.

    Anyway, just wanted to say you’re not alone in these worst-case-scenario fears!

    1. M'Lynn March 30, 2016

      “seizure coma death moments” hilarious (when I’m safely sitting at my kitchen table) but… yeah. not hilarious when I’m in the middle of them! I’m glad the bite wasn’t serious!

  3. Brittany March 30, 2016

    That Scripture command from Proverbs 3:25 is a good one for me to remember. Thanks for pointing it out! I can’t help but notice it is in the same chapter as the earlier verses that are so familiar…Trust in the Lord with all your heart…and He will make straight your paths (vs. 5-6). I’m always trying to assess for emergencies because a decent hospital is 4 hours away. Yet, in over 2 years, the only time we’ve needed an emergency room, we were “conveniently” in the city only moments away from the good hospital. He knows. I can trust Him. What a waste worrying about all the possible sudden disasters. I appreciated your reminder that “sudden disasters just happen. We don’t need to walk around worrying about them. When disaster strikes, God is faithful.

    1. M'Lynn March 31, 2016

      Yes! He put you in the right place at the right time. God is good. Thanks for sharing. This makes me smile. And yes…what a waste our worry is. I see Jesus gently pleading with us “Do not worry about tomorrow for today has enough trouble of it’s own.” For real.

  4. Rachel March 30, 2016

    Wow, I really needed to hear this!!  We are leaving the field in a few weeks, which means I have to navigate through big airports again, and after hearing about the events in Belgium (and having personally stood in that spot a few months ago!!), and hearing of various plane crashes, I can be one crazy hairball of fear!!  Thank you so much for the reminder to have no fear of sudden disaster.  That fearing it will not prevent it, or help me to be more “careful.”  Thank you!

    1. M'Lynn March 31, 2016

      Rachel, Psalm 23:4 comes to mind on this one (as overused as it may be…)! I pray you’ll feel His presence leading you and guiding you as you choose to go in faith and not in fear 🙂 And also “Be strong and courageous!” as God constantly reminded Joshua. Maybe you can keep some good Scriptural ammunition close at hand during your journey. A back-pocket note card pep-rally of “Do not fear” verses! That sort of thing is helpful for me.

  5. Monica F March 30, 2016

    Thank you for this post M’Lynn.  I identified with so much of it… while you were going through your ‘what ifs’, I was ‘down south’ worrying about very similar things- especially health issues for my kids.  Back in 2006, after living in a remote village in SW China for a semester my 3 yr. son developed an acute pneumonia that took months of meds and other treatments to overcome… I became super anxious after that, and for the next 8yrs anytime my kids got sick I came close to panic attacks.  Being a nurse, I always ‘thought the worse’, and developed a catastrophic-thinking sort of mindset.   When my son (same one as above) got appendicitis and we had to ‘rush’ 7 hours for medical treatment in our provincial capitol, that was when I really ‘crumbled’ and had to face my worst fear- potentially losing my child.  I thank God for his grace, for His patience with me, and for His faithfulness in the midst of those traumatic and scary times.  Those ‘close calls’ are reminders of this fleeting life, and that He REALLY IS in control.  It’s comforting to bond with other women who have faced catastrophe or difficulties while overseas- thank you for sharing!

    1. M'Lynn March 31, 2016

      I like this because it’s “scenario B” of Brittany’s situation (see her comment above). She happened to be right next to the good hospital when her child needed it…but you had to travel during an emergency. So…yeah…sometimes our worst fears are realized, but just knowing God will provide strength and grace for every moment and laying everything down on the foundation of his goodness is where we have to live. Thanks for sharing your story.

  6. Sara April 2, 2016

    Thanks for this! So true how fears multiply with each new member of the family added. After some major traumas on the field, including watching my youngest child stop breathing while in the car on the way to the hospital two hours away (had Scarlet fever but totally fine now!) I felt like my “what-ifs” were at an all-time high. I heard the Holy Spirit’s voice telling me to “Look for proof of life.” I was sick over all the “what ifs” of what may have happened plus the ones that could still happen, “what of she hadn’t started breathing again?”, “what if that dog had bitten him higher and someone hadn’t been there to beat it back?”, “what if she’d fallen and fractured her skull instead of broken her arm?” I felt like God was reminding me that those “what ifs” didn’t happen and that I was focusing too much on them instead of marveling at his help and protection.
    The crazy thing was, even in the midst of my worst nightmares, I could feel him upholding me and assuring me – not even of a positive outcome, but that He was with me and wouldn’t leave me. When I couldn’t have even tried to conjure up faith, the author and perfecter of it is the one who sustained it for me.

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