The back end of the car slid out of alignment with the curve. Then skidded left.
My mom gripped the wheel as she tried to straighten the car.
We were sucked into a spin.
Gravity slammed me into the passenger door, pulled me away, then smashed me into the door again. I was weightless. Yanked against the seatbelt like a ragdoll by a force more powerful than anything I’d ever felt.
“Jesus!” The cry tore from my lips—my heart’s cry for salvation from death as we spun across the lanes.
I closed my eyes as we smashed into something hard.
Then silence. Stillness. Calm.
I opened my eyes, expecting to see glass shards of the windshield scattered in my lap, my mom bloodied behind the wheel.
But we were fine. Not a scratch marked either of us.
Though the incident felt as if it had spanned twenty minutes, our multiple spins probably took only seconds.
The car sported a large dent where the guard rail stopped our spiral, but, miraculously, no traffic was close enough to us on the freeway to be hit when we lost control.
We were able to get back on the road and continue the rest of the way to church, where we were headed for the Sunday service.
I worshipped and served at church that day with a new attitude. I had a fresh perspective on life—how fleeting it is, even for me, as young as I was then.
I had a new perspective on God and my relationship with Him. I had experienced a miracle firsthand. I had tasted His mercy and protection more tangibly than ever before. I felt I would never again live oblivious to His love, power, and providence in my life.
Since that experience years ago, I’ve had several more minor accidents or near-accidents on snowy or icy roads. All have added to the apparent reasonableness of my fear of driving in slippery conditions. Ironically, the worst of my accidents, which I’ve recounted here, wasn’t even due to a winter storm. There had been no precipitation the day before our drive to church that Sunday, so the patch of black ice took us completely by surprise.
This winter has been a particularly treacherous one for travel in the Midwest where I live. Nearly every snowfall has been preceded or immediately followed by rain, forming icy layers under and over the snow and often translating into my greatest driving fear—black ice.
It’s easy to say, “Ever since I had that accident, I lost my confidence as a winter driver.” Or to think, I’ve lost control on icy roads so many times, I know how dangerous they are.
There’s nothing wrong, of course, with staying home if you don’t have to drive in poor driving conditions. A recognition of danger and avoidance of unnecessary risk is wise.
I have to admit, though, that I struggle to make a decision on driving in nasty conditions based on wisdom rather than fear. After all, I’ve seen and heard what happens to people who venture to face slippery roads. I’ve felt the loss of control, the dreadful conviction exploding in your stomach that you’re about to die and you don’t feel ready.
When I’m unexpectedly caught in difficult driving conditions, those feelings return. I imagine losing control even when I haven’t lost it, because the memories are puissant and my imagination far too overactive.
Perhaps you also have experienced situations that haunt you, that make you fearful to face anything similar. Maybe you avoid certain situations out of fear, rather than wise caution.
Last week, we talked about how fear of danger is not healthy. The Bible is clear that we are not to harbor such fear, but to trust God even in dangerous circumstances.
So how do we get to that place of dauntless faith when we’ve already tasted the danger we now fear?
The problem isn’t really the experiences we’ve had or our memories of them. It’s how we remember them.
When I face a scary driving situation and respond with fear, I blame it on those times I could have died in similar conditions. But those same memories of my past hold a life-changing truth I’m not seeing.
I didn’t die.
I wasn’t injured.
Because God showed up.
Even if I had been severely hurt, or if you’ve had an experience far worse than mine in which you were injured, abused, or nearly died, the antidote for fear is still the same.
God preserved you. He was with you. He used that experience in your life.
He had mercy on you. He loved you. He revealed His power, forgiveness, compassion.
The list could go on and on, but usually I don’t see these aspects of my frightening experiences. I instead remember only the danger and my fear.
But the Bible gives us a better example in Psalm 77, where the writer Asaph meets his fears and despair by looking back—not to see the negative aspects of his experiences, but to see God in them, His unending faithfulness to those He loves.
When Asaph is deeply troubled, he says,
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds. – Psalm 77:11-12
He then proceeds to do just that, recounting for multiple chapters the great acts of mercy and love that God performed for His chosen people. Asaph speaks of passing on this history to future generations, “so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God” (Psalm 78:7a).
Asaph’s words as he sets out to review the past make his point of view clear:
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. – Psalm 77:13-15
What if we had this perspective? Instead of excusing our fears with past experiences, we could instead explain our faith by those same circumstances, because in and through them we tasted God’s faithfulness, mercy, and love.
Our future generations and a watching world could then learn of the awesome God we serve. And we could shed those fears that hold us back from serving Him in complete freedom and faith.
Let’s try it. Beginning today, let’s look back with new eyes. Then in those frightening memories, we will see not fear and danger, but our merciful God who is worthy of real faith.
Have you had a frightening experience that makes you fearful? Have you conquered that fear? Please share!