If anyone knows what it’s like to be wrecked, it’s us. Between the two of us we’ve been through a life-¬threatening illness (including a month spent in the ¬hospital), financial stress, relational failures, the loss of a job, the unexpected loss of a loved one, struggles with acute materialism, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism, and divorce.
Somewhere in your gut, you probably have a pretty good idea what it looks like—and feels like—to be wrecked. Chances are you’ve been wrecked at some point in the past. You might be standing, sitting, or sprawling in the middle of your life’s wreckage right now. And unfortunately, you’ll most likely have a wreck or five in the future. You’re surrounded, too, by thousands of other people who are at this very moment completely, utterly, and hopelessly wrecked.
Whether they show it on the outside or not.
Have you ever been in a car wreck? Living in ¬Colorado, we both have spent our share of time driving on icy roads. We’ve both been in car accidents. (No, not serious ones, thankfully. But enough to know that gut-tearing feeling when you see another car veer into your lane.)
Or when you slam on the brakes because the car you were following too closely comes to an instant dead stop.
Or when you realize you cut the corner too tight, too fast, and your tires lose traction.
And you start to slide.
In those seconds you feel absolutely helpless. Completely out of control. Something bad is about to ¬happen, and you can’t stop it. It’s going to happen. Time is suspended. The seconds stretch on. Your thoughts race. You’re about to lose your lunch.
You brace for impact.
Watching yourself slide helplessly toward a life wreck can have that same sense of inevitability. Your adrenaline spikes, and all you can do is cover your face. And you know: This is going to hurt.
Death, taxes, and wrecks. Life guarantees them all. And it’s not like chicken pox—down once and safe forever. No one is immune to fresh disaster. That’s a tough pill to swallow, because a lot of us, especially Christians, have created a fantasy reality where if we stay “inside God’s will” and make all the right choices, we’ll somehow avoid life’s really big smackdowns.
Nice try. But it won’t happen.
Want proof? Pick up your Bible and try to find one individual who loved God and was loved by God who didn’t go through some seriously tough times. Go to the New Testament, the Old Testament—it doesn’t matter. Everywhere you look, you’ll find people who did everything right and still got squeezed through some agonizing wringer.
Your own circle of friends and family is proof. Look carefully. Can you find that one person who has somehow made it past twenty without heartache? Some people may look like they have it all together, like unscathed ¬survivors. But the scars are there. You see them when you get to know their hearts, when their defenses drop and they tell their stories . . . the real stories.
The more people you meet, the firmer your realization: No one gets a wreck-free life.
Now finally, take a look at your own life. Pain is part of the human experience. It’s built in, a standard feature. Comes with the package, whether you ask for it or not. It stems from something that happened at the very beginning with a couple of your relatives—Adam and Eve. They blew it for all of us. (Of course, we would have, too. So don’t hate them.)
We can be wrecked in a bunch of different ways, but they all boil down to three basic flavors: wreckage from sin, wreckage from circumstances, and—ready for this?—wreckage from obedience.
Of course, we expect bad fruit from the first category, when we make wrong choices, when we sin. Habitual speeders are crashes (or tickets) waiting to happen. Are we shocked when the inevitable comes down? Probably not. Disappointed, angry . . . but not surprised.
Now, we may not like the second category, but we know that circumstances can wreck us too. Look around at events of the past few years in places like Southeast Asia and New Orleans. Tsunamis and Katrinas. We know that uncontrollable circumstances can take us down. Closer to home, divorce hurts kids who had nothing to do with the problem. Addiction robs innocent families of moms and dads, sons and daughters. Sickness and accidents rip loved ones from our arms. Circumstances sometimes seem to hunt us down, conspiring to wreck us.
The third category is less obvious. It’s not a popular message, inside or outside church walls, that doing the right thing can totally wreck us. But this truth couldn’t be more obvious in Scripture. Doing what God calls us to do doesn’t guarantee an easy, carefree life. In fact, it usually promises just the opposite. According to tradition, ten of Jesus’ disciples—the venerable founders of Christianity—were executed. Hebrews 11 is a catalog of godly people who, through the ages, suffered every kind of hardship imaginable. Persecution, destitution, starvation, homelessness, prison, beating, stoning, torture, murder.
Matthew 7:13-14 says this: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
The wide path. The easy route. Going with the crowd, drifting with the current. Lots of opportunities to blow it, to sin, to be hurt by other people’s sins. It’s simple math: Regular exposure to sin behaviors—yours or others’—is a spawning ground for tragedy.
But avoiding wreckage isn’t easy. It would be nice if following the narrow path, the path that Christ calls us to, guaranteed we wouldn’t get hurt. But here’s the thing: We’ll get wrecked in some way no matter what path we follow. Obedience isn’t a bulletproof vest. The “armor of God” in Ephesians 6—you know, truth, righteousness, faith . . . all the rest—protects us from sin, not from pain and loss. In fact, Jesus promised that we’d suffer because of our ¬obedience.
Wreckage happens. And theories that sound nice on paper evaporate when it happens to you.
Being truly wrecked isn’t about being annoyed or inconvenienced. Or about getting your feathers ruffled. It’s not the missing car keys; you can replace them. Or the test you flunked; you can take the class again. Or the argument with your best friend; you can make up.
Being wrecked means reaching that point where you see no way out. Period. It’s when the little light that was at the end of the tunnel goes dark. It’s fear and hopelessness and helplessness. It’s wanting to give up, concede total failure in life, cash it in for good.
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