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On June 11, 2021, a professional diver was lobster fishing off the coast of Cape Cod when something amazing happened. A young humpback whale opened its mouth and enveloped him.  The whale didn’t swallow the diver. A humpback’s esophagus is too narrow to swallow a human – especially one loaded with diving gear. The diver spent about 40 seconds in its mouth before being spewed out.

According to 56-year-old Michael Packard, he was about 45 feet below the surface when he felt as though he was hit by a truck. Everything went black and he knew he was in terrible trouble. At first Michael thought a great white shark had swallowed him. But he felt no teeth, nor any lacerations. The hard inner mouth of the whale was compressing him, then he realized what had happened.

The breathing regulator had been knocked from his mouth, so he fought to put it back. Then he felt the whale convulsing or, perhaps, swimming and diving deeper. He thought to himself, “Is this how it’s going to end? Will I never see my boys again?”

Just as suddenly as things had gone black, he was hurled back into the light in a cloud of bubbles. Packard popped to the surface, his dry suit nearly inflated from the depressurization. His business partner, Josiah Mayo, spotted him and pulled him back onto their fishing boat. Then he radioed the nearest hospital and raced to get Packard to shore.

Doctors inspected the unfortunate diver (or, fortunate – considering he survived). He was also badly bruised. And although Packard believed his leg had been broken in the ordeal, only his knee was dislocated. But what the doctors had feared most were the possible internal injuries, particularly embolisms from his rapid decompression. Yet no life-threatening injuries were present. Doctors released Packard the same day. He anticipates he’ll be back diving in a week or so.

What struck me most about this story was the different reactions from various news agencies. The Washington Post and UPI, for instance, simply reported the details of the event. National Public Radio (NPR), however, viewed the story with a measure of skepticism. It played it safe by dividing their report into three sections. First, they reported, “Here’s what the diver says,” then “here’s what the witnesses say,” and then, “here’s what the experts say.”  Obviously, NPR gave far greater credence to “the experts” – i.e. the ones who study whale behavior in the safety of their lab, than to anyone else.  Michael Packard, the diver, received the least measure of credibility.

Of course, there is one person in the story who is convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt of what happened. It’s Packard himself. He spent 40 seconds in the mouth of the whale – and came out with loads of bruises to prove it. There’s no convincing him that he imagined or made up the story.

You know, I’ve seen the same dynamics at work whenever psychologists and psychoanalysts attempt to assess the experience of a born again believer.  The convert explains the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the intense awareness of God’s presence, and the wave of peace he felt when he asked the Lord Jesus to come into his heart. The psychoanalyst will dismiss all this as a purely subjective experience and assures them nothing supernatural took place.

But the psychoanalyst cannot come to any other conclusion. For he begins from the premise that the supernatural does not exist. So everything must fit into that belief system. Therefore, when he does his analysis, he can only conclude that this “spiritual experience” or “religious trip” wasn’t real.

Besides this, the psychoanalyst always tries to “maintain mastery” over everything and “stay above” what he analyzes. He tries to keep a safe distance from everything he analyzes. But one cannot keep God in a test tube any more than he can a whale. If we must exercise humility when facing whales, we must do the same with God.

With this superior attitude and safe approach, no one can experience God for themselves unless they are first confronted with their own frailty and mortality. A personal crisis usually achieves this. Then, only when this professional and academic “bubble” is burst, can people experience God for themselves.

People who experience God’s transforming power know God is real – even if they are prone to self-doubt. They are like the blind man in John 9 to whom Jesus had given sight. He was also analyzed by the “experts” – the Pharisees. And because those Pharisees began with the belief that Jesus was a false prophet, they couldn’t accept the former blind man’s testimony. The evidence had to match the conclusion they had already adopted. The healed blind man was lying or he’d been mistaken for another blind man. They couldn’t accept the evidence that stared them in the face.

Despite all their “expert” conclusions the blind man told them, “All I know is this – once I was blind and now I see.”  His personal encounter with God was too convincing to concede to the experts.

Friend, never doubt the reality of your encounter with the Living God. As you continue to walk with the Lord, you’ll have many more such encounters. You’ll witness many answers to prayer. You’ll experience many divine deliverances from trouble and feel God’s empowering grace to help you endure trials from which there is no escape. You’ll hear the voice of the Spirit speaking to your heart from the Scripture. More and more, your conviction of the reality of God will grow.

But if you feel the need to be skeptical, then apply some of that skepticism to the conclusions of the critics. The icons of academia and the scientific community are every bit as prone to pettiness, pride, and personal rivalries as any mortal. And they can be extraordinarily narrow in their thinking and defensive whenever some new discovery threatens their own belief system. As the evidence for God’s existence continues to grow, academia becomes increasingly desperate. It works harder and harder to squeeze all phenomena into the narrow parameters of its own faith.

So keep believing in God and the Bible. It’s the most rational and wisest thing you’ll ever do. Don’t doubt what God has done in your life. Your best evidence is what you have personally experienced and found to be true – God.


PRAYER:  Dear Lord Jesus, the criticism and dismissals of other people really don’t matter anymore. I can now speak from my many personal encounters with You. You have never failed me or forsaken me. You have faithfully supplied my needs and comforted me in times of trial and sorrow. You have shielded me from so many calamities and dangers – most of which I am blissfully ignorant. But I can truthfully testify of this: You are faithful and true. Amen.


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