Do you remember the day John F. Kennedy, Jr., his wife, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, and his sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette, crashed into the Atlantic ocean. It was July 16, 1999. John was piloting the single-engine aircraft and was only a few miles from their destination when something went terribly wrong. Here’s what happened. Read to the end. I think you’ll see how it applies to you and me and could keep us from crashing too.
The plane left New Jersey en route to a family gathering in Massachusetts in the dark of night, and while crossing a thirty-mile stretch of water to make its final descent, the plane began a series of erratic maneuvers. John’s descent varied between 400 and 800 feet per minute, about seven miles from shore.
The plane began an erratic series of turns, descents, and climbs. Its final descent eventually exceeded 4700 fpm, and the airplane took a nose-dive into the ocean. Other pilots flying similar routes on the night of the accident reported no visual horizon while flying over the water because of haze. They couldn’t see a thing. The watery grave swallowed the plane and the three passengers on board.
One pilot explained that John most likely experienced the “Black Hole” syndrome. Pilots of small-engine planes use the horizon as a reference point. However, John lost sight of the horizon and his eyes gave the brain no clue as to which way was up and which way was down. In this situation, if an airplane should turn slightly or nose down slightly, the body’s inner ear compensates to make the pilot believe he’s flying straight and level. If for some reason the pilot makes another correction, he can make a bad decision worse. (Stay with me here. You’ll see how this applies to me and you.)
John was not flying under Instrument Flight Rules, but rather Visual Flight Rules. That means he was not trained to use the instrument panel properly, but simply learned how to fly by sight alone. When he could not see the horizon, John became disoriented and his mind lost its sense of perspective and direction. He had what we commonly call vertigo, and the flight pattern showed all the evidence of “mind wobbling and tortured confusion.”
John’s instruments told him that his wings were tilted (flying sideways), but he felt that he was right-side up. While John had all the instruments on board for a safe landing, he did not know how to use them.
One pilot explained John’s vertigo and disorientation this way: “And here is the crux of the matter; the pilot’s emotions drowned out the flight instruments’ story about banking and diving at high speed, and screamed out, ‘No way! It can’t be. I’m actually flying straight and level. I know it!’”
A skilled instrument flyer knows he can’t rely on his feelings and has the ability to regain control of the airplane by depending on the instrument. Instructors call this lifesaving skill “recovery from unusual attitudes.” “The real skill of instrument flying is truly depending on the instruments’ readings rather than your feelings. Recovery from ‘unusual attitudes’ consists of one essential belief: Your feelings cannot be trusted as the final authority on what the airplane is doing. Your mind is boss. The instruments are your window on reality and you desperately need to understand the data they provide.”
Friend, I hope you are tracking with me. This isn’t just about flying an airplane; this is about maneuvering through life. John had everything he needed to make a safe landing right there on the instrument panel in front of him. But he didn’t know how to use them. John chose to rely on his feelings rather than the facts. His feelings lied, and he and his passengers died.We have the opportunity to learn how to fly through the storms of life with limited visibility. Click & Tweet! The Bible tells us, If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you, (James 1:5 NIV). We can maneuver safely through unexpected turbulence and relational malfunctions. God has given us the tools to avoid becoming disoriented and going into a tailspin or nosedive. Click & Tweet! His Word is the Truth that guides us through the inky soup when the horizon is nowhere in sight. His Word is the instrument panel. However, if we rely on our feelings we won’t know which way is up and which way is down.
So today, let’s decide to avoid flying through the day led by our emotions, but by the instrument panel…the Word of God. Click & Tweet! The fact that you’re reading this devotion let’s me know you are well on your way!
Dear Lord, so many times I make decisions based on my emotions. Help me to stop and take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, and use my mind before making decisions. Give me wisdom. Bring truth to my remembrance. Control my tongue. I know that’s a lot to ask, but I also know that You are a big God! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
You’ve heard the lies before. Maybe even whispered one or two to yourself from time to time. Maybe repeated them so often you’ve started to believe them. “Nobody loves me. I’m worthless. I would be happier married to someone else. I’m just not good enough.” The list goes on. It’s time to recognize the enemy’s lies and to replace those lies with the Bible’s liberating truth. It’s time to renew your mind and think God’s thought rather than be held in bondage by the enemy’s deceptions. It’s time to be set free to see yourself as God see you: His holy, chosen, cleansed, forgiven and dearly loved child. Now that’s a truth worth repeating. To learn more, check out my book, Enough: Silencing the Lies that Steal Your Confidence. It’s a game changer!