How to Survive Pain and Tragedy

When tragedy and pain strike unexpectedly, our lives can feel like one slow motion blow after another.  Here is a word of personal hope and encouragement to help you cling to God when life seems dark and painful.

When Life Slows Down

 David sheltonI never really had one of those moments where everything slowed down until November 1, 2013.  A man I have never met, and will likely never meet, fell asleep behind the wheel of his car that morning around 7am.  His car crossed from his far right-hand lane and crossed two more lanes of traffic, then jumped the curb of the median, rumbled across the 20-ft. median and crossed into oncoming traffic.  I was in the middle lane of the oncoming traffic.  The pickup truck about 15 yards in front of me swerved to the shoulder to avoid the car that had come to a stop in the middle lane.  I started to head left around the car, but the car suddenly turned straight into me before I could take any more action.  That’s when it all slowed down.

I remember saying “No!” right before impact.  I was in “protector” mode because my two daughters were asleep in the car.  We had dropped off my son at marching band practice and I was headed to the Quik Trip to put gas in the car.  “No” meant, “you’re not going to hurt us” and “I’m not going out like this”.  “No” was a statement.  It was uttered in protest.  “No” was a prayer.  Not now, not my daughters and not like this.

The air bag deployed with ferocious force and punch me in the chest like a heavyweight boxer.  I remember watching the hood bend up in front of me.  My 1993 Buick LeSabre muscled up and took this hit in the nose.  I watched as the car gasped its last breath before coughing out its last rumble.  I watched the air bag sag back onto the steering wheel from where it deployed, and seeing the powder-like particles float in the air after delivering the life-saving blow that kept me from hurtling into the steering wheel.  My seatbelt had locked me down into the seat and I was going nowhere without the seatbelt being released.  To the designers and makers of the Buick LeSabre: Thank you.  It worked.

It seemed like several minutes had gone by before my daughters came to the realization of what had taken place and what was going on around them.  The impact woke them up and after taking in the scene they started screaming at me wanting to know if I was okay.  It was at this point that life went back to normal speed.  My ball cap and glasses were now in the back seat.  The radio was still playing my favorite morning radio show and the slightly warm air was still blowing from the vents.  Tears now flowed from my daughter’s eyes as they took in the sight of their dad, bloodied and bruised having trouble breathing.  The kept asking me if I was ok, and I assured them that I was.  Good Samaritan’s started to stop and check on us.  I wasn’t sure if the door would open, so I rolled down the window.  Finally, I had the bright idea to open the door.  When I got the door open and the air started to clear, I figured out that I needed to release my seatbelt.  It was crushing me.  Once it was unhooked I could breathe a little easier.

For some reason I reached down and grabbed my phone and texted my wife, Kelly.  I told her I needed help and for her to come.  By the time she reversed direction and headed towards the scene of the accident, all three of us had been put in neck collars and onto backboards to stabilize any possible broken or bruised bones.  Kelly was re-routed to the emergency room of one of the hospitals in downtown Fort Worth.  The girls were taken to the children’s hospital a couple of blocks away.

When Kelly arrived, I finally cried.  I sobbed and sobbed, not over the Dallas Cowboys windbreaker they had to cut off of me, but I sobbed because I could have lost my daughters.  It all could have been so much worse.  I did not know what shape I was in.  I did not know if, and how bad I was hurt internally.  As a teenager, I managed to put a hairline fracture in my sternum.  Now, I was wondering if my sternum had more of a crack than a hairline fracture.

It was at the moment that Kelly took my hand, leaned over me and prayed.  She thanked God that we were alive and that we were in the caring hands of the medical professionals.  She prayed for God to heal whatever was broken and to bring peace to my mind.  She also thanked God that my parents were already on their way to Texas and would be there in a few short hours.

Later in the day, according to the CT scan, the ER doctor informed me that I had only a chest contusion from the airbag.  No broken bones, no sprains and no dislocations.  No serious neck or back injuries, and the girls were unhurt as well.

I have to put this in right here: I was not afraid of death.  Death means that I get what I have asked for.  I get to walk up to the Father and put up my hands.  He will pick me up and place me on his lap, enfold me in his arms of eternal protection, and allow me to close my eyes and rest as I listen to His heartbeat lull me to sleep.  No more contacts to put in my eyes, no more allergies, no more colds when the seasons change from fall to winter, no more battle with my waistline, and the list goes on.  “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21, ESV)  Those I would leave behind would be sad and would mourn.  I would be made whole and I would finally be at home.  It was not my appointed time and I am still here.

Since November 1, 2014, we’ve had more days that seemed so dark and we felt so far away from God.  I would venture to guess that the majority of those reading this page have been there as well.  I had to go back and read what I have written before for this web site.  I had to go read my own words of encouragement to others to run to God and not from Him.  I had to wonder if my faith was enough to continue to believe in Him.  Thankfully, the faith to believe comes from God and is not something we have to conjure up ourselves.

I always come back to the same place.  I always come back to the place where God is enough and that none of what is happening has surprised Him or caught Him off guard.

Maybe this is you, dear reader, right now.  Maybe your world seems very dark and you feel very lonely or separated from the Maker of heaven and earth.  Maybe you need this prayer for your life right now:

“God, it is so hard to pray to you right now.  I feel so far away from You, and I’m not sure if You can even hear me.  I choose to pray to You in spite of my circumstances and how I feel.  I’m choosing to run to You and not from You.  I choose to believe that You have a plan for my, that Your arm is not too short to save, that You will provide for me as You promised, and that You will not leave me or walk away from me at any point in my life.  Please forgive me for my sins against You.  Please help me and show me how to trust You when it seems as though I can’t find You.  I choose to trust in You.  In the name of Your son, Jesus, I pray, amen.”  My daughters and I essentially walked away from the accident without physical injuries.  The memories, however, still linger.  Someday this will be a memory that we will talk about and how things changed from that moment on.  Since the accident my youngest has attempted to encourage me that what I really need to drive is a full-size, crew cab Chevy Silverado.  Since that time life has not gotten easier.  My life has become 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.  I write to you, dear reader, because of the following words that have become my life story:

            “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”

Copyright 2014 David Shelton.  All rights reserved.