When the car lost control on loose gravel, fishtailing wildly only to end with an ominous smoking crash in the ditch, I knew immediately on impact that something was wrong. Hanging suspended from the lap seatbelt in the backseat behind the driver, I felt panicked by the searing pain in my lower back.
After the other three girls in the car climbed out, the rescue workers used the jaws of life to cut me out of the car, and I was transported to a local hospital, my worry was confirmed: I had broken two vertebrates in my lower back, requiring surgery and the use of brace for three months.
I knew it had been an accident – and I felt no ill will toward the teenage driver at the wheel, a friend of a friend – but at age 17 and with all the invincibility of youth, I felt as though if I had been the one driving, rather than simply a passenger in the backseat, the accident never would have happened.
As someone who values control in her life, dealing with the fallout of the accident was a lesson in how to adapt when life changes course. The marching band trip I couldn’t take, the cheerleading season I couldn’t participate in, the senior-year activities I’d been looking forward to – all were gone, in the span of a moment or two.
When circumstances feel out of our control and we wonder why God has “let something happen,” we can forget that the evils of this world come part and parcel with the free will that we cherish as an inalienable right and privilege. I don’t have the answers to all of the world’s problems, nor am not comfortable giving advice that will only sound hollow to someone in the depths of pain.
However, I do know that when we give up our control, we stop feeling the weight of the world. We understand that the burden is not ours to carry, that the problems we’ve taken on and categorized as insurmountable were never meant to be our burdens at all, but God’s. When we hear the crash of metal on a highway or hear a cancer diagnosis or see an empty bank account, we feel so small and inept and out of control. And yet Jesus, our comforter, is waiting for us to reach out for him.
And that accident that felt so life-changing? Well, it was – but in many positive ways, as well. The fact that I got stared at by strangers in public because of my back brace resulted in a newfound appreciation and empathy for people with disabilities who get stared at every day, not just for three months. A portion of the insurance fund settlement paid for my college semester abroad, one of the highlights of my life. And I got to spend quality time with friends during what was, quite possibly, the most peaceful summer of my life.
I am not in control. But I know the One who is. He’s my friend, my comforter, someone who only and always has my very best interests in mind.
“Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (MSG)