By Keith Burden

It was a normal part of his daily routine, something he had done a thousand times. He could almost do it with his eyes closed.

Charles would rise early, shower, shave and then make his way into town to buy a newspaper before joining his friends for coffee and doughnuts. His rural home was only a few miles from a sleepy little community.

The dusty lane from his house to the county road crossed a railroad track where freight trains sped past several times each day. There were no crossing signals—local residents had learned to approach the railway with caution.

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Perhaps his mind was on something else, or maybe he was distracted. Charles had difficulty recalling what happened. He remembers approaching the tracks, but from that point on everything became fuzzy.

The engineer said he blew the whistle several times, yet for some unexplainable reason the motorist pulled onto the tracks. The impact was violent, the crush of metal muffled by the locomotive’s roar.

The force of the collision slammed the car several feet down the track before it began to roll. Apparently the driver’s side door came open and Charles was ejected. To this day no one can explain how that happened.

Because of its high speed and tremendous weight, the train traveled a considerable distance before the conductor brought it to a stop. He rushed back to the accident scene fearful of what he might see.

He was surprised and greatly relieved to find Charles sitting on the side of the road, dazed and dirty, but alive. Incredibly, he had only a broken collar bone, minor cuts and abrasions. Still, as a precaution the engineer called 911 and summoned emergency personnel.

Houston, We Have a Problem

Charles was transported by ambulance to a local hospital for examination. The emergency room nurse on duty that day was Rick, a member of Charles’ church. He determined the patient had no serious injuries from the collision, however, he heard something with his stethoscope that concerned him.

The attending physician shared the nurse’s concern and ordered an X-ray of Charles’ abdomen. The test results confirmed the medical staff’s suspicion—there was a large aneurism on the aorta just below his stomach. If it ruptured, death would be almost instantaneous.

In short order a medical flight crew transported Charles to a trauma center in a larger city. The next day a cardiovascular surgeon repaired the damaged aorta and averted a near disaster.

A Fortunate Collision?

During the course of these events an amazing discovery was made. According to the doctor, the aneurism was not caused by the accident. Apparently, it was developing long before the collision. Had it gone undetected, Charles would likely have died without warning in a matter of days.

As it turns out, the wreck probably saved his life. Were it not for the accident, Charles would not have received medical treatment and the subsequent diagnosis. In the words of the surgeon, “If anyone was ever fortunate to be hit by a train, you are that man.”

Romans 8:28 Principle

That incident reminded me of a familiar, yet often overlooked, scriptural principle. Paul stated it in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

God delights in using experiences in our life that are painful and problematic to bring glory to His name and accomplish our good. Something as serious and tragic as a train wreck can have a good outcome if we love and trust Him.

Am I suggesting that you pull in front of a train to test this principle? No, of course not. But chances are that God wants to use the difficulty or challenge you face today to teach you the practical truth of Romans 8:28.

A few days after his surgery, Charles’ son came by the hospital for a visit. With a grin on his face he reported that he had seen his father’s wrecked car, and it was a total loss . . . except for one piece he was able to salvage. He handed the right, side-view mirror from the car to his dad who smiled as he read the words: “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.”

About the Writer: Keith Burden is the executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists.