Shock and Awe

Last Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race from Daytona was expected to be an exciting, action-filled launch to the 2013 NASCAR season, and it lived up to that expectation—until the final lap. Trying for the win, Regan Smith moved to block Brad Keselowski and set off a chain-reaction that crashed out what was left of the field (12 cars). Somehow, Tony Stewart slid through the carnage to win his 7th NNS Daytona race in the last 9 years, but even Tony was in no mood to celebrate. Why? Well, as most everyone knows by now, Kyle Larson’s car went airborne into the catch-fence, shearing off a large section of the fencing that protects the spectators from the track, and parts of his car, including a tire still carrying the wheel and suspension assembly, went flying into the crowd. Another tire and his engine lay in a heap in the debris field that had been the catch-fence. No less than 28 spectators were injured, with half being taken to local hospitals.

As various experts and eyewitnesses shared their perspectives on the extraordinary crash, one comment caught my attention: “This kind of thing is shocking—but it isn’t surprising. This is a dangerous sport.” True. Tony Stewart reminded us that the drivers know it is dangerous when they sign up for it. But it isn’t supposed to be dangerous for the fans. And that is why it was so shocking. When you go to the racetrack (or ballpark) the danger is supposed to be confined to the competitors. When it knifes its way into the stands, it shocks us because, after all, it just isn’t supposed to be that way.

For followers of Christ, we can find it shocking as well. We know Christ. God loves us. Those things shouldn’t happen to us, we think. But Peter thought differently. He wrote, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12)

Don’t think it strange. It may shock us when trials come our way, but Peter reminds us that it really shouldn’t. We live in a world that has been badly broken. We live in the midst of a world influenced by our spiritual enemy. We carry with us the consequences of our own brokenness.

The good news, however, is that, in spite of the severity of hardship and heartache we might face, we do not face it alone. The writer of Hebrews said:

Be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5b-6).

We may be surprised. We may even be shocked. But we need not fear. The Lord is our helper—and we can be content with that. Even in life’s seasons of shock and awe.

Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain