Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why Hasn’t Shark Wrestling Killed Elliot Sudal?

Elliot Sudal’s favorite thing to do is wrestle wild sharks. As of a couple months ago, the 24-year-old claims to have caught and released over one hundred of the deadly fish.

The first encounter lasted 45 minutes in the water, finally ending when Sudal dragged the live shark onto the beach. He photographed the animal and then let it go.

Each time, he says, the scariest moment comes when he first jumps in the water and grabs the shark with his hands. Because there’s a lot of thrashing about, it’s hard to tell what is what, and the shark’s mouth could easily find its way to his body.

Why hasn’t he been bitten yet? Sure, Sudal is a strong guy, but there has to be more to it than that. Sudal has his own theory, but think of what your answer is first. What would be the most logical explanation for why a young man who has wrestled with over a hundred hungry sharks hasn’t been killed—or even bitten?

Have your answer? Don’t keep reading until you do. Here’s Sudal’s summary, given in a National Geographic article:

“They [sharks] can cut a fish in half no problem, so think what they could do to a leg,” he said. “But knock on wood, I haven’t had any problems yet.”

“Knock on wood.” Pure luck. That’s why he’s still in one piece. Honestly, it’s an answer that makes sense. How else do you explain it?

Believe it or not, there’s a better answer. It’s seen more clearly in another true story of a man who walked away from several deadly wrestling matches with wild animals. Listen to how he explained his experiences:

“Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear” (1 Sam. 17:34-36).

Based on David’s description, it almost sounds as if he had killed several wild animals in the past. Unlike Sudal, he probably had some weapons at his disposal. But look at how he interprets the events: “The LORD…delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear” (v. 37).

“The Lord delivered me.” David wasn’t just lucky. He did the physical fighting, yes. But he was aware that, unless the Lord fights for us, we fight in vain. Ultimately, it was God who rescued him from the threat of death.

Was David’s answer the same as your answer for Sudal? It’s not how I typically think when hearing about narrow escapes. I too easily forget God in the miraculous events in life—to say nothing of the daily grind. (It’s a common temptation in affluent societies; see Deuteronomy 8:11-17.)

That’s why I’m thankful for David’s example, and for countless other stories in the Old Testament. They repeatedly give us a glimpse behind the curtain to see just how much God is at work in the world.

Our stance, I think, is often to view our situations through the dirty lens of luck. “Man, you really dodged the bullet there.” “Wow, I narrowly missed that one.” “Just think—one more inch and that would have ended poorly.” “Can you believe how close I came to ending my life?” We acknowledge the miraculous all the time—albeit, without actually acknowledge their miraculous nature.

Here’s the application: Scripture tells us that every good thing comes from God (Jas. 1:17). If you experience any blessing, it is ultimately from His hand. That includes the time when
  • You almost got into a car wreck but didn’t.
  • You had given up your purse for lost, but then it was returned to you.
  • You heard good news from the doctor when you were expecting bad news.
  • You received an answer to prayer.
And the list could go on and on. Whenever you experience mercy (avoiding something bad that should happen) or grace (receiving something good that shouldn’t happen), you are receiving a gift from the Lord. Only God is truly good (Luke 18:19), and he is more accomplished at giving good gifts than anyone else (Luke 11:11-13).

So let’s pray that we can cultivate a habit of pointing the finger back to God when we are blessed. It will more closely align our thinking with reality—and it will encourage us to experience more thankfulness in our hearts.

photo credit: martins.nunomiguel via photopin cc

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