Facing the Danger Zone

Updated: Sep 16, 2019

Author: Pastor Chris Thompson

Have you ever suffered a trauma? Not just any trauma, I’m talking about earth-shaking earth-shattering, shape the face of your future kind of trauma? The kind of trauma that makes you want to give up on life, marriage, job, family, God and just quit?

If we are being honest not all trauma is created equal, neither is how we respond. Consider trauma from your youth: a pet died, you didn’t get the Christmas present you wanted, etc. But perhaps as an adult, you’ve lost a parent, a spouse or even a child. What follows is a story of horrific trauma. But the trauma is not the star of the story, rather it is the One to whom it points.

Brian “Noodle” Udell was flying his F-15E over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina on April 18th, 1995. A captain in the Air Force, Udell was on a routine training mission. A combat veteran with more than 100 missions under his belt, Udell had his multi-million-dollar plane and the life of his co-pilot well in hand. Udell then heard a sound that didn’t match what the instruments on his HUD told him. Though the HUD displayed an airspeed of 460 mph, Udell knew by the sound of the wind flying past the Plexiglas of the bubble covering his cockpit that he was approaching the speed of sound. Udell would check another set of gauges and see that he was not at 24,000 ft. banking right at 60 degrees, rather he was at 690 mph 17,000 ft. and “…pointing straight down at the earth.” Within seconds the jet was at 10,000 ft. and had broken the sound barrier (1,116 ft. per second). “Bailout! Bailout! Bailout!” came the command from Udell. At 3000 feet co-pilot Dennis White ejected and was killed instantly. At 1500 feet Udell ejected his parachute, which did not open until 500 feet.

To label Udell’s situation as critical would be a gross understatement. Three of his four limbs were unusable due to severe damage, and with his one good arm, he could not get enough leverage to pull himself into his life raft. He knew that sharks could not be far away, and with multiple tendons, ligaments, veins, and arteries exposed from his many injuries his blood was most definitely in the water. Add in the threat of hypothermia and drowning and Udell became convinced that, “I am going to die tonight.” At this point Udell stopped fighting for his life and started praying. “Military training had carried him this far, but now he put his fate in the hands of a higher power. This was the ‘defining moment of the whole experience,’ he says. Broken and battered, he cried out: ‘God, I need help.’…he believes that God gave him one more assist by sending a wave that lifted him to safety.”[1]Udell had not lost the will to live but saw no other way to live other than through divine intervention.

We will face trial and tribulation in this life. As individuals and as a body. There is no doubt; there is no question. The Savior suffered, his disciples suffered, we will suffer. So, the question is not whether we will suffer, but rather how we will respond when suffering comes. When you, when we, are at the end of our human wisdom and strength to whom will we turn? May it be said that when faced with opposition and pain beyond what any mortal should be able to bear that we of Sonrise willingly turned to the only One who can always make a way.

[1]Ben Sherwood, The Survivors Guide: The Secrets and Science that Could Save your Life (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2009), 114-20, 126, Kindle.


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Background courtesy of John Wayman