I had an eight o’clock appointment, so I was a bit pressed for time when I decided to do my shopping. The evening rush-hour traffic didn’t hold me back too much, and when I had selected my groceries I was glad to find a checkout stand that was open. Glancing at my watch I realized that the time would be tight, but I should not have a problem making my appointment on time if things continued as smoothly as they had begun. I just forgot one thing: My life runs on God’s time, not my own.
After my last item was rung up, the cashier’s terminal started causing problems. Then my coupons would not enter properly. Then the manager had to be called to approve my check. In all, the manager had to come and assist the cashier five times before she could finish my order. Even after the groceries were already being delivered to my car, I had to run back to correct an item that had not been entered properly. Could things get worse?
They could. As I got into my car and was pulling out of the parking space, I had to wait for a little old lady on crutches to maneuver herself into her car. Finally, after a short wait, I was on my way—for just a few feet. As I pulled out the second time I noticed another car coming in my direction, and I braked quickly. Too bad the driver of the other car was looking to the other side instead of where she was going. Wham! She bumped right into the fender of my car.
No one was injured and my car had sustained only minor damage, but the young woman in the other car looked puzzled. She wanted to know how it had happened. I mentioned only that she had not been looking where she was going, and she surprised me by bursting into tears. I tried to reassure her that the damage was minor and the insurance would cover everything, but she was upset about something else. The accident had just stopped her plans to commit suicide!
Suddenly I realized that God’s timing is not only perfect, but also very precise. Those annoying delays I had encountered were obviously part of his plan for me that day. I told the young woman to park her car, and I reparked mine. Then after exchanging the customary information when one gets into an accident, I asked whether I had heard her remark correctly.
Had she actually been about to commit suicide, or did she want to now because of the accident? She said no, she had planned to do it, but now, having been stopped, she felt she could no longer carry out her plans.
I tried to encourage her. I told her I was a minister, and I tried to tell her a little about God’s love for her. I couldn’t say very much because by now a small crowd had gathered around us, wondering about all the commotion and crying. I asked the woman for her telephone number and if I might call her later that evening. She said it would have to be late, but she also promised she would not do anything self-destructive before I called.
It was midnight before I could reach her. She was still upset and in tears, but I was able to explain the gospel and answer some of her questions about the meaning of life and how we can have a relationship with God through Christ. She understood the gospel message but was unsure about receiving God’s grace, because she recognized that she would need to change and thought she would never be able to do that.
I told her that she would not have to change. She would only have to be willing to allow God to do the changing in her, much like a sculptor changes a stone into something beautiful, while the rough-hewn mass has little to do with the process except to cooperate with the artist.
She was willing to do that much, and she prayed with me over the telephone to receive God’s forgiveness and a new life in Christ. I asked her to read aloud to me the passage from II Corinthians 5:14-21, emphasizing that she was now “dead in Christ” but “alive unto God.”
I explained to her that what she had been planning to do—destroy her life that she hated—God had just done for her in a much better way. Upon her commitment to him, he had judged her old self as being dead on the cross and had given her new life in the risen Christ!
Editor’s Note: Steven Burg recently left our Jews for Jesus staff to continue his theological studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He remains very active with our Boston branch as a volunteer.