Revival and Reformation

God, a train wreck, and the unexpected

M. Lee is a historian and teacher in the United States.

It seemed like an ordinary summer evening as we headed home to get ready for school the next day.

Our car had been having mechanical problems, but we had used someone’s truck to jump-start it and were on our way. We were only five miles from home when, as our car sat momentarily on the train tracks waiting for the car ahead to move, it stalled. We sat silently for a moment and then, in the most surreal way possible, we saw lights flashing. We looked over our shoulders, a freight train was headed straight toward us.

There was absolutely no time to even try to get out of the car. We were hit by a train going nearly 40 miles (64 kilometers) per hour. The train dragged our car down the tracks. I passed out.

When I awoke, a stranger was holding me on the pavement with a blanket. I saw emergency responders opening the car with a very large hydraulic rescue tool. EMTs strapped me onto a spinal board and took me in an ambulance to the hospital.

Incredibly, God saved our lives that day. I did not go back to middle school for some time—but praise God, I did go back.

Never the same again

Our lives were never the same again. Logistical and practical changes took place in the wake of the accident: insurance, wrecked cars, injuries, and more. In addition to all these, the seeming randomness of our accident took on a very purposeful and clear role in my life. Our plan had been to drive home as we had hundreds of times before. Instead, our lives changed in a moment.

If you have ever experienced a similar event—accident, grief, pain, loss—you know that there is nothing planned, logical, or reasonable about it.

If you have ever experienced a similar event—accident, grief, pain, loss—you know that there is nothing planned, logical, or reasonable about it. When I despaired in college about my career path, I sensed the reassurance that God had a purpose for my life by saving it those many years ago. When I struggled with depression as an adult, I did not despair completely because I remembered how God had miraculously shown His hand. Whenever I cross train tracks now, I think of that day. Those memories continue to silently remind me of God’s continued will for my life.

“Unplanned” events

Scripture tells us of many “unplanned” events: God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Ruth stumbling across Boaz’s field, Nehemiah’s conversation with the Achaemenid king on an otherwise ordinary day, Gabriel’s visit to Mary, Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus. Yet each of these unexpected events changed the course of sacred history.

Each day, many providential, seemingly random, out of the ordinary, troublesome, and even tragic and very painful events take place in our ministries and personal lives. Whether they are His work or the enemy’s, God speaks and works not only through what we expect but also through the unplanned. Romans 8:28 promises, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (TNIV).

Perhaps you have been faced with the unexpected. Join me in praying to understand God’s work in these moments—and in trying to “ ‘hear what the Spirit says to the churches’ ” (Rev. 2:29, NKJV).


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M. Lee is a historian and teacher in the United States.

September 2021

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