Unknown Dangers

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”
— Psalm 27:1

The Cold War ramped up quickly in the early 1960s. The nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union could have easily ended in disaster for the U.S. – and not because of an enemy attack.

On January 24, 1961, four days after President Kennedy’s inauguration, a U.S. B-52 bomber, carrying two 4-megaton atomic bombs, was flying a routine mission over the Atlantic seaboard. Twelve hours into the flight, without warning, the plane lost nineteen tons of fuel pressure in two minutes. The aircraft crashed near Goldsboro, N.C. before it could land at Seymour-Johnson Airforce Base. Three of the seven crewmen were killed while the others ejected to safety.

The bombs on board were BIG bombs. One megaton is 1,000,000 tons. With two 4-megaton bombs on board, this B-52 was equipped with 8,000,000 tons of nuclear explosives. Just to put that into perspective, the size of the atomic bombs that obliterated the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki within a 5-mile radius were each less than 15,000 tons. These bombs were more than 500 times more powerful than the ones President Truman dropped in Japan. And they crashed-landed in our backyard!

In 2013, the Freedom of Information Act provided access to information that proves how close the United States was to utter disaster in this event. Formerly confidential documents confirm that 3 of the 4 detonation switches on the bombs had been activated; the U.S. was one switch away from a life-changing, history-altering, self-inflicted explosion.

Fortunately – some might say miraculously – neither of these behemoths detonated. If they had, the results would have been unimaginably catastrophic. The atomic bombs dropped in Japan killed a combined estimate of 130,000-215,000 people. What would have been the death toll if these megaton bombs had detonated?

What if?  Can you imagine??? How different our state, our nation, and our world would be today!

I never knew this event occurred until I learned about it in a history podcast recently (American History Tellers by Wondery). Were you aware of it? I suspect most Americans in 1961 were naïve to this danger. The government downplayed the event and the average citizen went about their business as usual as if there was never any threat of disaster. President Kennedy didn’t even mention in it in his televised address to the nation the very next day.

It makes me wonder how many other dangers and potential disasters of which we live unaware!

We live in a world filled with all kind of dangers, and some of them can have serious consequences. We are cognizant of some dangers, but many of them are simply unknown to us and we have no control over them.

How does it make you feel to contemplate the unknown dangers and potential disasters that surround you daily? Does it make you anxious and worried? Are you downright frightened?

Fear not! You have a God who is aware of all existing dangers – including the ones you don’t even know about. And he’s promised that “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). That is a comforting promise to remember when we worry about the “what ifs” in life.

However, that promise doesn’t mean your life will be free from trouble, pain, and sorrow. There will be times when sin and Satan are allowed to impact your life. But every trouble you experience is intended to steer your heart and mind toward God’s promises in Jesus.  In times of trouble we remember God’s promise to Isaiah, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). God’s promise to Isaiah is for you and me too. God assures you of his presence and his help in times of fear and danger. 

We easily worry about the physical dangers we can see and feel, and we often forget about the spiritual dangers we face. The temptations and attacks of the Devil aim to lead you away from Christ, which has more severe consequences than even an 8-megaton nuclear explosion. Jesus warns, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 28:10).

The hymn writer Hans Brorson observed,

“I walk in danger all the way, the thought shall never leave me,
That Satan, who has marked his prey, Is plotting to deceive me.
This foe with hidden snares, May seize me unawares
If I should fail to watch and pray. I walk in danger all the way.”

St. Peter encourages us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We guard ourselves against that prowling lion by regularly reviewing the plan of salvation God accomplished on our behalf through Jesus, and by surrounding ourselves with Christian brothers and sisters who watch our spiritual backs by guiding us and encouraging us with the Scriptures.

Danger can certainly affect us on this side of heaven. But it can’t touch us in eternity. Jesus conquered eternal danger by living perfectly in our place and suffering the punishment of our sin on the cross. Jesus eliminated the threat of eternal danger. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Those of you who grew up in the ’50s or ’60s may recall the “duck and cover” air raid drills at school in case of an atomic attack. These drills consisted of getting under your desk and tucking your head between your knees. Like THAT would have protected you!  Such drills instilled a false sense of security.

God’s promise and his protection are the real deal. There is nothing false about them. They are dependable and trustworthy. When Satan attacks, find your safe place in God’s promises. They are an impenetrable refuge.  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

With Hans Brorson we can also sing,

“I walk with Jesus all the way, His guidance never fails me;
Within his wounds I find a stay When Satan’s power assails me;
And by his footsteps led, My path I safely tread.
No evil leads my soul astray; I walk with Jesus all the way.”

You face many unknown dangers in life. But you can be at peace with that. Why? Because you are well aware of the all-powerful, everlasting promises and saving work of your Savior, Jesus. So, with the Psalmist, you can confidently say, “In God I trust and I am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 56:4).

Continue your walk through this dangerous life toward heaven – with your Savior by your side each step of the way.

Written by Staff Minister Brent Bitter