Lord of the sea creatures
How God can foil Satan’s best-laid plans
A man named Kevin Hines, who survived a jump off the Golden Gate Bridge on Sept. 25, 2000, recently came to Philadelphia to speak to university students. At the time of his jump, he was 19, in college, and had decided he could no longer live. Ten University of Pennsylvania students have ended their lives by their own hand in the last three years.
We do not often get to speak to survivors of jumps from Joseph Strauss’ beautiful suspension bridge spanning the 3-mile-long strait between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The four-second freefall is followed by an impact at 75 miles per hour, from which 98 percent either die immediately or drown within minutes. Between 1937 and 2012, 2,000 bodies have been fished from the cold waters below the bridge’s graceful cables.
Normally we would not be privy to the state of mind of the person who elected to put this dark period at the end of his life. But Kevin Hines shares the ruminations he recalls during that rarest and briefest of trips. If you were wondering whether people who commit suicide may have instantaneous regret about it, Hines, for one, says that the instant he hurled himself off the orange railing he was seized with the overwhelming urge to live: “It was the first millisecond, the first moment of free fall. I knew it was the worst mistake I ever made.”
Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. And once he has convinced a man to act on his persuasive and reasonable-sounding suggestions, that man has served his usefulness and may be disposed of like so much trash. The Tempter need no longer waste his time foisting the delusions that led him to this point. In fact, he may relish allowing his victim to see, in one horrifying epiphany, that he has been deliciously had. Thus the Tempter becomes, in this second act, the Mocker.
Hines’ testimony is consistent with that of a man I know personally who ingested enough drugs one day in the 1970s to assure his departure from the world. He then laid himself on his bed to die, but ended up crying out to Jesus, asking for forgiveness. He somehow survived. I share this story for the encouragement of the reader who may grapple, as I once did, with the question of whether repentance is possible for people who commit suicide.
There is another silver lining to this story. When Hines plunged into the bay, that insatiable maw of many a victim of hell’s seductive sirens, God was also there, and He ran interference with the devil’s plot. Hines reports that as he struggled to tread water with three shattered vertebrae and pierced organs, a sea lion in the vicinity kept swimming around him and keeping his head above water until rescuers came. Sea lions are not uncommon in the San Francisco Bay in late summer when the herring spawn, but nothing in God’s universe is random.
One’s memory wanders to that other oft-told divine mission of a sea creature 2,700 years ago, in which another man who decided he could no longer live hurled himself into what he expected to be his watery grave. But God, here also, foiled Satan’s best-laid plans and snatched salvation from the jaws of defeat:
“And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah” (Jonah 1:17).
Our Lord is the Lord of the sea as well as the hills (1 Kings 20:28), and there is no place where a straying sheep can wander where He cannot find him and bring rescue:
“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:7-10).
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