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Updated: Feb 4, 2021

We humans seem to know God best through our very worst moments on this planet. It's when we're upside down, spent, broken - that we can most clearly sense our need for him.

Lean in as Helen Young Hayes shares her own very personal moment of being held by God. It's especially poignant for me as today I am flying to Germany.




By Helen Young Hayes

"There was another one today," my friends and family would warn me, hoping to soften the impact. We have all been horrified with the seemingly endless succession of plane crashes in the past year. Unlike most, I remember with vivid clarity another catastrophic plane crash, United Flight 232, on July 19, 1989. Because I was on that plane when it crash-landed in Iowa. As the plane flipped and broke into sections, I ended up in a cornfield, hanging upside down in my seat.

Like millions of viewers across the globe, I have been troubled by the news of the Germanwings plane that crashed into the French Alps. The images of wreckage strewn across the French mountainside are hauntingly familiar as I recall the pieces of debris scattered across an Iowa airfield some twenty-five years ago.

It's rather ironic that in 2014 I became a "million-miler" on United, having flown over a million miles on that carrier alone.

I'm often asked how I can get on a plane again, after surviving a crash that had 112 fatalities. The answer can be found in one word: God.

Knowing firsthand the terror and violence of a plane crash, I wouldn't fly today if I hadn't encountered God so vividly during Flight 232. Conversely, I might not have the same intimacy with God if I had never been on Flight 232. I believe that God becomes more real to us, the harder we cling to him. "You will find me if you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)

In the minutes before our crash-landing, I could not rely on humans, or technology, or money, or anything else that we commonly trust. Amazingly, as I prayed with all my focus, I experienced his presence with me. I was aware of nothing else, only God. All my life, I will remember how he showed up for me, when I needed him most.

God became real to me as I held onto him with all my strength. Paradoxically, I believe I was in his hands the whole time.

My phone plays a curious trick on me with its autocorrect feature. As I sign off with my name "Helen," my smartphone will often automatically convert my name into "Held." It happens several times a day. You'd think that the phone would recognize my name after two years. Each time it happens, though, I pause and remind myself that no one and nothing can snatch us out of his hands (John 10:28). I remember that "my times are in his hands." (Psalm 31:15). I don't think of it as a phone glitch; it's just a gracious reminder that I am held, by him, at all times, perhaps most tenderly and most tightly when I'm afraid. And I have the courage to fly again, perhaps for another million miles.

As fund manager at Janus Capital, Helen Young Hayes used to fly all over the world as part of her job evaluating companies. Now her flights are more focused on family experiences. When she's not racking up frequent flier miles, Helen advises for-profit and non-profit companies on strategy and raises support for Third World orphans. She is a frequent guest speaker on topics as far-ranging as economics, business and faith.

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