One of the blessings of my job is a repeating array of examples of the sovereignty of God in relation to suffering. I have often told others who question me about my job that I have an overwhelming sense that when it is my time to go I will go, and when it is not nothing on this world can cause my appointment with death to be rescheduled.
Here are a few brief incidents at work which have caused me (and others) to ponder on God’s sovereignty.
Last night during the night shift I worked with a trooper who 8 years ago was struck by a semi truck during an ugly outburst of Michigan’s winter weather. I had heard the short version of the story and as such knew that this trooper had been hit by a semi truck while standing outside of his patrol car. Last night I asked this trooper whom I have worked with on numerous occasions to tell me the details of what happened on that day. This is what he told me.
While working the day shift on some rather snowy and icy road conditions this trooper responded to an accident on I94 near the 21 mile marker. He had arrived on the scene of a semi vs. car accident with minor damage. The trooper parked his car behind the semi truck on the should of E/B I94 to warn on-coming traffic. As the trooper was standing with the driver of the car only a few feet in front of the semi truck he heard that dreaded sliding noise that a semi truck makes when it loses control on icy roads. He said he knew then that he was dead. Just then the out of control E/B semi truck side-swiped the troopers patrol car and then struck the rear of the semi truck parked on the shoulder. The parked semi truck lunged forward as a result of being struck by the other semi truck. While standing barely a few feet in front of the parked semi truck this trooper had no time to even move before he was struck by the parked semi truck, launching him through the air. The trooper described a sensation of time moving very slowly as he hurled through the air and towards the ground. He remembered his flight quite well.
The next thing he remembered was waking up laying in the snowy ditch. Amazingly he was able to stand up and stumble around as he called dispatch to request assistance. Other troopers who arrived on scene tell stories of cleaning the dirt and weeds out from being imbedded in this troopers uniform. He was still very dazed and disoriented. After a few days off of work it became apparent that he was not going to be physically able to work again for quite a while. The unusual and varied array of symptoms that come with a spinal cord injury plagued him for over a year. 15 months after the trooper was struck by the semi truck he was able to return to work. Again that was 8 years ago, and miraculously this trooper is still patrolling the streets of the Bridgman post area.
Another miracle incident occurred within the past few months. This time it was a Niles trooper who was on the receiving end of a miracle. Officers had responded to the scene of a 911 call for help. Officers checked the interior of the residence and did not locate anybody. One of the troopers from Niles then began to check the exterior of the residence. During hours of darkness the trooper searched the area with his flashlight. His light landed on a man with a shotgun standing only 5-10 feet away from him. This subject leveled the shotgun at the trooper and pulled the trigger… Click. The gun did not fire and the trooper had milliseconds to make his decision and move. The trooper ran. The suspect re-entered his residence and after a lengthy standoff was talked into coming out of the house and surrendering. A subsequent inspection of the shotgun revealed that there was in fact a live round in the chamber, and that the firing pin did in fact strike the primer. (Amazingly enough this is not the first time I’ve heard such a testimony of misfiring rounds resulting in saved lives).
I know these guys. I know these stories are real. I can’t help but see the similarities between semi-trucks that hit pedestrian officers and a den full of lions who don’t eat a helpless Daniel. Or between shotgun shells that don’t fire and flames that don’t burn the flesh of 3 Hebrews in Nebuchadnezzar’s firey furnace.
As an officer I have seen the other side of incidents which result not in the saving of lives but in the taking of them. Several examples come to mind. One which echoes of the sovereign timing of God who calls His children home when and for His reasons is an accident that I responded to on the freeway a year and a half ago. It was a bright sunny afternoon and traffic was thick on the freeway. The 911 call came out. A semi truck had crossed the median and hit an oncoming vehicle. The W/B semi truck hit an E/B mini van. The collision had a laser precision. The angle was such that the driver side door was pealed off and the driver was untouched. The 7 year old daughter in the rear seat was literally there one second and gone the next as her seat took the impact of the front corner of the semi truck. Her sister was seated next to her on the passenger side and remained untouched. 3 out of the 4 occupants walked away from the accident. And the little one who did not, suffered not, and likely never even had any idea what was going to happen. The grace of this incident is highlighted by the fact that the semi truck which crossed the median on that heavily trafficked day hit only 1 car and not 10, or a bus. And sovereignly it was time for one little girl to leave this planet and not 50. Holding mom’s hand and telling her and dad that their little girl was dead removes with certainty any imaginations that our lives can exist apart from suffering.
Many other examples of tragedy permeate my mind, but underneath it all is a confidence that God is in control. He knows what He is doing, He has reasons, and He is good.
The interesting thing is that though I’ve been privy to see such evidences of His sovereignty, I find myself attempting to maneuver and make decisions as if I had any say in such divine decisions. That anxiety remains in me, or in anyone who truly believes that God is sovereign and good, is a quandary to me.