When I was a police officer I saw many strange things. My life in law enforcement was many years ago, but the memories still linger.
One morning I got a call right out of the station to meet a man who would lead me to the site of a motor vehicle accident located on a rural highway out in the country. It took me the better part of thirty minutes rolling Code 3 to get to the scene.
Highway 9 connects the Santa Cruz area on the Central California coast with the small town of Saratoga where I was assigned as a patrol officer. This highway is notorious for its sharp turns and horrible accidents.
When I arrived at the scene I was met by the man who had called in the initial report. He worked on a nearby ranch and on his drive to work he noticed an overturned vehicle at the bottom of the canyon. The man and I walked to the edge of the roadway and looked down the steep embankment. Several hundred feet below me was a small sports car that had obviously skidded off the road and then rolled over several times coming to rest upside down at the bottom of the canyon.
Our only access to the accident was to drive farther up the highway and then enter the canyon via a ranch access road. We came to the end of the dirt road and began to hike in to the accident scene.
As we approached, I saw a set of legs sticking out from one side of the little car and another set of legs sticking out from the opposite side. My walk became a run.
Arriving at the driver’s side, I put my face down to the ground level, peered in and yelled something. Then I heard a faint voice call back to me, “Help!” The voice was just above a whisper speaking under the compressing weight of the vehicle.
I called for rescue on my radio and then began to dig a tunnel under the car with my bare hands to get closer to the person behind the voice. It took me a few minutes to make a tunnel large enough to get me face and chest under the car. The dawn was just breaking so the light was limited, but it was enough for me to make out the two faces of the people who were trapped under the car.
Both girls were laying on their stomachs, face to face. Their faces weren’t more than twelve inches apart. Now my face was also inside that dimly lit space and I could see that the passenger had already died. I had to be careful not to move the car for fear of adding injury to the survivor.
The girl spoke again and said, “I want to live.” I told her she would live and to keep talking to me until rescue arrived – we would get her out of there. As we waited I encouraged the girl to keep talking, telling me her sad story.
The night before, she and her life-long best friend, decided to go to the beach in Santa Cruz for the day. After a day of fun and sun they put the top down and rode home on a warm summer night. Somewhere on their journey home they entered a turn too fast and went over the edge. They were just a couple of young giggly girls enjoying a beautiful day at the beach. They were every dad’s little girl. This was an innocent trip that turned tragic.
The girl told me that around 11:00 p.m. she took one of the hairpin turns too fast and went over the side. She recalled rolling several times before the sports car came to rest at the bottom of the canyon atop both of them. For the first couple of hours the girls talked and cried out for help. After awhile they knew no one would hear them.
The girl told me that sometime in the night her friend started to sound faint and finally stopped talking. She called out to her, but received no response. In the middle of a dark night at the bottom of a very lonely canyon, a grim reality began to set in.
I could not imagine what it would have been like to have been under that car for the last nine hours. I could not imagine what it would have been like to see the coming light of dawn that would reveal the dead face of my best friend. I just couldn’t imagine what this girl was going through.
It took about thirty minutes before the rescue units finally arrived. Once rescue was on the scene, the car was secured and eventually lifted off of the girls. The living girl was placed into an ambulance and taken away to the hospital. Her wish to live was granted. I waited for another hour with the dead girl, now covered with a bright yellow plastic blanket, until the coroner’s unit came and took her away in a black plastic bag.
The events that day taught me about the power of hope. In Hebrews 6:19 the scripture says, “This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” This kind of hope is not put in jeopardy by the events we suffer here on earth. It is anchored in an eternally secure place. No matter what this life throws at us the anchor will hold.
When Paul wrote to the church in Rome he talked about hope in a future glory that gives context to our present suffering. In Romans 8:18 he wrote, “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.”
Even the Church can lose hope when she does not compare this life and its suffering with the glory that will be revealed. This hope of our future eternal glory needs to be compared to the temporary pain and suffering we experience in this life. Paul couldn’t write verse 18 unless he had made the comparison. Neither can we.
Where we miss it is when we fail to make the comparison. Sometime we simply go on with life’s struggles and end up focusing only on the pain – like the girl under the car. She looked at death in the face and wondered when she would join her friend. She stopped crying out for help because her situation seemed so isolated that no one would hear her cries. She began to lose hope.
We can also feel alone under the crushing weight of what life brings our way. After awhile that weight becomes more than we can bear and we give in to the crushing weight of hopelessness.
Romans 8:21 gives us the context in which this hope is experienced. “The creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
Creation is groaning because it still remembers what it was like before the fall.
The apple tree your backyard, or the grass in your neighbor’s field, is looking forward to the reversal of sin’s effect that began in Eden. All creation wants to go back but it can’t until God’s plan is fulfilled in His people. Creation is groaning in anticipation of what is coming. But it is not just creation that is groaning.
Romans 8:23 “And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.”
We groan because who we have been destined to become is not yet fully realized. We groan because we know there is more. Hope is the bridge through the seasons of groaning until the future glory is revealed.
Romans 8:24 tells us, “We were given this hope when we were saved.” Those who follow Jesus Christ already possess this hope. Hope was deposited in us the day we said “yes” to Jesus. We don’t have to wait for anything to change. We can speak hope now.
In a world where hopelessness weighs down on people each day, the word of hope becomes a powerful tool for change. When we live in the “eager hope” of rescue, the words we speak bring life to situations that appear hopeless. The girl under the car cried, “I want to live!” My reply to her, that her rescue was coming, changed everything.
When you come across a life trapped under hopelessness, and you hear the words, “I want to live,” you and I have something to say. We have hope.