“We thank You, O God! We give thanks because You are near. People everywhere tell of Your wonderful deeds.” (Psalm 75:1 NLT)
Word travels quickly in a small church, and if you’re reading this on paper, then this is probably old news to you: this week, I was involved in a car crash. On the way to the Detroit airport, my sister-in-law and I got off the highway for a pit stop, and we were rear-ended by another driver while I was changing lanes. Both Leah and I were unharmed except for some soreness the next morning, and to the best of my knowledge, the other driver was not seriously hurt. Leah’s car, which I was driving, is pretty well banged up, though.
Automobile accidents like these are such random occurrences. Any number of choices, actions, or other incidents could have changed the outcome of this event. If only we had left home a minute or two earlier or later; if only I had set the cruise control a hair lower when we first got on the highway; if only we had to stop for gas before we left home…
I am reminded of the terrible collision that occurred in 2006, while I was a math teacher at Taylor University in Indiana. You may have heard of it: a semi-truck crossed the median and hit a van full of Taylor students and staff going the opposite direction. Four students and a staff member were killed; the driver, the front passenger, and one other student survived. Here, the “if only”s involve microseconds: a split second one direction, and no collision happens; a split second the other direction, and the driver, the front passenger, and the other surviving student may not have been so fortunate.
Does God design these events to happen? Does God control the variables? Does God determine who survives car crashes and who doesn’t?
In times like these, it’s helpful for me to count our blessings, with the full awareness that many other people have not been so fortunate. I am thankful that we were hit squarely in the back of the car and not on either the driver’s or passenger’s sides. I am thankful that there was no oncoming traffic, so we were able to careen to the other side of the street without causing more destruction. I am thankful that Leah was able to make her flight on time, thanks to the police officer calling a cab for us. I am thankful that we all have another day to breathe, to enjoy God’s creation, to tell of his mercies, to rest in him.
Personally, I don’t believe God predestines the outcomes of car crashes and other random human events. I think he may very well be surprised when these events occur, just as we are. But I do believe wholeheartedly that God walks with us through times of trial, that God grants peace to his people no matter the circumstance, and that no matter what happens to us, he will care for us. Thanks be to God!