A Life Nearly Lost
by Bryan Gibson
I had been asleep for nearly two hours when I received the phone call. My sixteen year-old niece, Valerie Baker, had been in a terrible car accident, leaving her in critical condition. As soon as I got off the phone, I started praying, something I’m sure other family members were doing at the same time. The next day I received word that she was going to pull through, although there was the possibility that she would lose her left leg. Three days after the accident, her left leg was amputated from the middle of the knee joint. The following day successful reconstructive surgery was performed on her right knee, which had also been badly damaged in the accident. At the time of this writing, Valerie is experiencing the normal “lows” associated with an ordeal like this, but she is very thankful to be alive. I’ve done a lot of thinking over the last week about some lessons we can learn from this whole situation.
§ Life, although a precious blessing, is very fragile and uncertain.
As I mentioned earlier, Valerie has had some low moments, but she is thankful to be alive. The state trooper who investigated the accident was amazed that someone survived this accident. Actually, two people did. The girl who was a passenger in the car Valerie was driving escaped with hardly a scratch, even though the car hit a tree, was split in two, and flipped a couple times. Most accidents of this magnitude do not have a “happy ending.” Every day people die suddenly from traffic accidents and from other causes. In other words, life is fragile; it can be taken from us in the “blink of an eye.” We must consider each day a blessing from God and make the very best of it (Psalms 118:24). What we must do with each day is get ready for THE DAY. Because life is so uncertain, THE DAY may come sooner than any of us expect.
§ Life is full of sorrow (Psalms 90:10).
I have seen more tears shed in this past week than I have seen in a long time—from Valerie, from her parents, from other family members, from many of her friends who had come to check on her. It triggers a lot of emotion when you see a sixteen year-old girl lying in intensive care, with tubes running everywhere from her body. This life can be very good at times, but it can also be awfully cruel. It should make us long for that place where God will wipe away all tears, where there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying (Revelation 21:4).
§ Suffering can bring out the best in people.
It is too early to say with certainty how Valerie will react to all that has happened to her. But what I do know about her gives me confidence that this whole ordeal will strengthen her character. This physical “weakness” may prove to make her stronger spiritually (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). What happened to her was a bad thing, but God has the power to make it work for good (Romans 8:28).
This accident has already brought out the best in other people. There is simply no way to measure the amount of compassion that has been shown to my niece and to our family. Prayers have been said, words of encouragement have been spoken, food has been cooked, money has been raised to help with expenses, and the list could go on and on. A long time ago, God showed us the true meaning of love (1 John 3:16). How comforting it is, how encouraging, when others demonstrate that same kind of love. I spoke with Valerie on the phone before writing this article. She told me she loved me, and then she said, “tell Aunt Lynn and all your family that I love them too.” I suspect Valerie understands the meaning and value of love more than she ever has in her entire life.
§ We should be thankful that we have a powerful, loving heavenly Father who hears and answers our prayers (1 John 5:14-15).
We sometimes make the statement in certain situations, “well, all we can do is pray.” We should instead say, “the best thing we can do is pray.” Word was spread about my niece’s accident to faithful Christians in many other places, and they all petitioned the throne of God on her behalf. Yes, I know she lost part of her leg, but she is alive, and I sincerely believe that we have God to thank for that. We can also give thanks to Him that she did not sustain any head injuries. In time, with the help of a prosthesis, she will be able to walk again, even run and jump again. Overcoming a brain injury would have been much tougher. Wouldn’t it be terrible in a situation like this to not be able to pray with confidence, because we knew our lives were not pleasing to God—to know that we so desperately needed God’s help, but not have the confidence that we would receive it? (1 John 3:22).
Valerie is now out of intensive care—but only in one sense. She remains under the intensive care of God.
Editor’s update: Valerie went on to finish high school, and then college, and is now in the midst of her first year of teaching. She is a faithful Christian and plans to marry another faithful Christian this summer (2008).