Holding onto what is true
John Jae Lee | AUGUSt 20, 2019 | 4 MIN READ
I was driving back home on the northbound side of the freeway. I didn't know that just minutes before, a driver had entered the freeway via an off-ramp in an attempt to escape police and was now driving against traffic.
But that’s when I saw a car barreling towards me.
To avoid a head-on collision, I swerved. It was too late. The car crashed into me. I screamed as I spun out of control. My car finally stopped and faced the incoming traffic. I broke down and cried.
Just a week earlier, I had been mourning over the death of a close friend from high school. I was honestly angry at God during that time. Remembering his funeral and the tragedy of a premature death, I thought I’d meet the same fate.
Immediately, the runaway car took off as six police vehicles chased it.
“I really can’t handle this right now. I wish I had died in that accident,” I bawled in front of my roommate. I was depressed, coping with psychological distress of such a traumatic experience.
I was lucky to be alive. My lawyer was astonished that I was alive and unharmed. Had I not swerved the car in time, at minimum my legs would have been crushed.
But things would not stop piling up. I discovered that my insurance did not cover the damage to my car. There was no way my parents and I could afford a new one. On top of my responsibilities at school, I had to meet with the police, deal with towing company jerks, and pay frequent visits to highway patrol to check if there was any glimmer of hope that the runaway driver had insurance. But there was no luck. I felt crushed, thinking that God was distancing Himself from me, especially in my growing anger at His absence in my life.
My college pastor reached out to me and told me to hold onto what is true. At first, I was incredulous. The advice was too simple. At the time, I had already been struggling with the possible existence of absolute truth. So then how could truth exist in this world if it seems detached from all the violence and horrendous things happening around me?
But, as my surrounding community reached out to support me, I threw myself into prayer. I attended a weekly worship hosted by my Christian fraternity and felt challenged by one song: “Because of who you are, I give you glory […] Lord, I worship you because of who you are.” While singing along, my friend laid his hand on my shoulder in prayer. I suddenly felt a rush of peace. In that moment, I encountered the Lord, coming to terms of who He is – that, in the face of this terrible situation, He is truly worthy of my praise. I sought to cling to what is true.
God pressed two truths into me through this accident.
1. God gives and takes away, both for his glory
I first realized this while seeing the Avengers Endgame trailer in which Captain Rogers assures his team, “It’s not about how much we’ve lost. It’s about how much we have left.” I know getting inspiration from a superhero movie is kind of ridiculous, but those words consoled me. God had preserved my life in the accident.
The revelation was confirmed in reading Job 1:21: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
When I read this verse, I realized that He first gives and then takes away, and that He works through all things for His glory. God gave me my car for His glory – whether it’d be taking people to church or driving fellow collegians in my Christian campus ministry. And, in the same way, God let my car be taken away for His glory, even though I wasn’t quite sure what that meant at the time.
2. The world is full of suffering, but Christ will redeem it
In this life, we will suffer because of stupid stuff we do, because of stupid stuff others do, or because of stupid stuff the devil does. It is unavoidable. Yet we know that ultimately, Christ died to end our suffering, as those who believe in him will be eternally with him. In addition, his sacrifice means that we are not only saved from eternal suffering in hell, but also to give us perspective for the earthly hells we are going through. This of course does not mean that we will not have pain on this earth. But it does mean that all of our suffering will be redeemed and used by God to show His glory.
I experienced torment because of some foolish person running away from the police. Even though I didn’t choose to be hit by a car going the wrong way on the freeway, I suffered.
But my suffering has been redeemed. God has been using this testimony to others to the hope of the Gospel. During outreach ministry with my church, I met with homeless brothers whose lives have been ravaged by traffic accidents. I empathized with their confusions and frustrations at others’ misunderstandings to “drive more carefully next time,” when we know that in this world, no matter how careful you are, life hits you with unexpected blows.
Further, this moment has been redeemed because, through it, I saw my need for a greater view of the Gospel and a greater joy rooted in Christ. I’ve been reminded that Jesus chose to be crucified and suffer to restore a broken humanity back to God.
Jesus chose to suffer, even though he did not have to. Jesus paid an incalculable cost to pay for all our ignorant and sinful ways. And his suffering has been redeemed because has has atoned for all of our sins, and now we can now enter God’s presence and give him all the glory, honor, and praise. Realizing this made me even more grateful and overwhelmed at our Savior’s great act of love and mercy for us.
It has been four months since my car crash.
Through God’s providence, my “totaled” car has been repaired and looks better than it did before the accident. Through victim compensation, I received funds that covered nearly the exact amount it cost to fix the car.
I know what is true. God gives and he takes away. But he still gives. Suffering is a part of our lives, but for the Christian, it will be redeemed into a closer relationship with our Father.
I believe God invites all of us to also choose the path of suffering. In the face of death, Paul encourages Timothy to “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3). In this life we will suffer, we will experience loss, but we must remember Jesus and how he willingly endured the cross in obedience to the Father.
We won’t always be able to understand why God gives or takes away in a particular moment. But we do know that the greatest thing he gave was his Son, Jesus, and He will never be taken away.
We will lose at some point – our cars, our friends, our money, our successes. Gradually or suddenly, everything that seems stable can be stripped away. But right now, we stand on holy ground. God is with us. Jesus can never be taken away. His suffering means our redemption, and our suffering will ultimately be redeemed. Holding onto these truths is the key to unspeakable joy.
John Jae Lee is a Occupational Therapy major at the University of Southern California. He serves in children's ministry at All Nations Church and, at school, serves in KCM and Alpha Gamma Omega Christ-centered fraternity. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, working out, and simping to Coldplay music.