by Steven P. Wickstrom
Have you ever prayed to God and had him answer you by saying “No?” It is disappointing isn’t it? Sometimes we do not even know how to deal with that answer, especially when it concerns the life of someone who close to us, or a family member. I have noticed that when God gives me a “No” answer, he usually does not explain why he answered in that way. That tends to make it even more difficult for me to accept. God seems to expect me to accept the answer and move on with my life. The problem is that I often do not want to accept that answer and I do not want to move on until I get an answer that I want to hear. Perhaps you respond the same that I do. Let me tell you a true story.
I was on a Coast Guard Cutter in the Bering Sea in the middle of February and the weather had been terrible for weeks. The relentless storms had driven the waves to around twenty-five feet in height and the snow was coming down horizontally. Being on a ship in twenty-five foot seas can be absolutely uncomfortable. It was so cold that the salt water sea spray was freezing into ice sheets as it covered the ship. Every morning we had to go out and the beat the ice off the ship that had accumulated during the night. We didn’t want the ship to become top heavy due to the ice because a top heavy ship will tip over and sink. It was King Crab season and we were watching over the crab fleet like a shepherd watches his sheep.
The ice flow had flowed south of the Artic Circle and was now pushing its way into the crab grounds. The harsh weather was taking its toll on the crab fleet. The men on a typical crab boat work twenty-hours a day releasing and pulling up their crab pots. They also had to beat the ice off their boats and that took time away from catching crabs. Since crab season that year only lasted about four weeks, time was money. One of the boats, the “Crab Getter” (I chose not to use the boats actual name) had been neglecting the ice buildup on its mast and superstructure and was becoming top heavy. No one realized there was a problem until it was too late.
We received a Mayday call when another vessel realized the “Crab Getter” had suddenly vanished. We were only about twenty miles away but the twenty plus foot seas and driving winds reduced our maximum speed. We launched our helicopter (quite a trick in twenty-foot seas) to look for survivors because it would take us about fifty minutes to traverse those twenty miles. I knew that the odds of those men surviving were slim to non-existent, so I interceded for their lives. A human can only survive for about five minutes in freezing water so these men needed God to intervene if they were to survive.
Almost as soon as I started praying, God answered. He said “No.” I was stunned.