Winging It

Takeoff from LAX (2006)

The profound is often planted deep within the prosaic.

You never know when you’ll discover just the right words that will have a significant impact on your life and perspective.

With a few minutes to spare before a meeting at an aerospace company Monday, I looked through an issue of its corporate magazine. The cover article was about its structural tests of commercial and military aircraft. More than just an idle read to pass time, more than interesting information about a Navy program with which I’m familiar, surprisingly, it offered a deeper insight into possible reasons for life’s difficulties.

“… testing to the extreme, and often beyond ….”

The article began with a quote from a test engineer who called himself a “professional destroyer” whose job it is to test aircraft parts and structures, and at times break them. The reason? The test engineer was clear: “… So people know they can trust our products.”

To ensure the safest aircraft, test engineers push “structures to their physical limits, finding out where the breaking point is — often with an audible pop, snap or crack. [The] efforts help ensure the safety … by verifying that the breaking point lies exceptionally far away from what a pilot may experience, even in extreme circumstances.”

Structural tests for aircraft might be a helpful metaphor for people experiencing significant, prolonged, painful experiences. Might God be doing some of his own test engineering with us? Certainly he is intimately acquainted with our unique designs (Psalm 139) and what is envisioned specifically for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11). Could it be that the divine plan needs verified?

Think about a single element in aircraft design. Wings. Aircraft wings are carefully made for optimal performance. The just-right materials are selected to fit a carefully designed shape and exacting placement on the airframe. It all looks good on paper. It looks even better when assembled. The real questions, the ones with life and death consequences, center on whether the wings do what they’re supposed to do under every conceivable circumstance to which they will be subjected. To be sure of their structural integrity, they are harshly tested, by intention.

Maybe we are like aircraft wings. Perhaps we need pushed to our limits, and beyond, so that we know — and God knows — we can easily handle situations we are likely to encounter in our lives from this moment on. There’s tremendous encouragement for us to trust God, especially in difficult times, but I’ve long wondered if God doesn’t allow testing through extremely hard circumstances so that he might trust us. Is it possible he needs to verify his original design for his own assurance?

Isn’t there confidence for us, too? Our past difficulties and current challenges may demonstrate the soundness of God’s design, giving us courage to face any circumstance.

“I don’t stress when I fly,” the article concludes with a quote from another structural test engineer. “I’ve seen those wings bend 26 feet — I have supreme confidence in our products and I know that they will withstand anything they come across in flight.”

I wonder if God says something similar? “I’m not worried about my people. I’ve seen them endure great difficulties. I have every confidence in them. They can withstand anything they come up against in life.”


  1. Why certainly, and isn’t it so grand that the engineer who created engineering created US! With God we are resilient no matter the test, even as has been shown in the lives of some saints to the point of martyrdom. So, though our glass may only be half full, we CAN be the jollier for it and thank God we are so blessed as to have what we need for the moment. Blessings abound when we take a moment and look around with eyes set to see that which God has given us.

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