By Ryan Day
Are you afraid of bridges? Do you squeeze the steering wheel just a little tighter as you drive across the span? As you peer down at the water or canyon below, do you get a little nervous? Does your stomach start twisting into a knot?
I know exactly how you feel.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been a little sketchy about crossing bridges—especially ones that span a massive body of water. One bridge in particular has always caused me a bit of consternation over the years: the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
The “Bay Bridge,” as it’s called, is special for the way it unites the two parts of Maryland—east and west. For millions of people who live in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, crossing this bridge is the fastest way to reach favorite destinations like Ocean City, Maryland, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
As one of Maryland’s native sons, I have crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge dozens of times in my 44 years. But even with all that experience, I still feel a little twinge of anxiety when I feel my vehicle ascend onto that elevated concrete and steel.
Last summer when my family and I were traveling to Ocean City we crossed the Bay Bridge in the middle of the day. Even though there were stunning views of the Chesapeake out the window, I wasn’t looking.
I was mentally rehearsing all the encouraging things my mom used to say about this bridge when I was a boy: “Just relax, Ryan. This is a time-tested bridge. The steel is strong. The concrete is firm. You can trust it to bring us to the other side.” Thankfully, Mom was right.
Fears are an inescapable part of our human existence. How many people today are genuinely afraid of spiders, crowds, darkness—or bridges? But there is one fear that towers above them all: the fear of death. Millions of people become terrified when they think, “What will happen when my eyes close for the final time?”
The good news is that the Bible gives us tremendously encouraging news about our journey beyond the grave. Eternal life is possible for all those who put their trust in Jesus Christ as the bridge to Heaven (John 3:16). But how can we be reassured that Jesus is the bridge that won’t break?
- Jesus lived the life we could never live. Human beings were created to live in joyful fellowship with God. But ever since the days of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, people have had anything but a perfect existence. To say it straight: we sin (Rom. 3:23). All of us have lied and lusted more times than we can count. As a result, sinful people like us are alienated from God. But when Jesus came, He lived the perfect life that we never could. Where we failed miserably, He succeeded spectacularly! His perfect life bridged the gap—establishing the righteousness God required to restart a relationship with us (Matt. 3:15).
- Jesus died the death we could never die. When Jesus died on the cross, even the Roman soldiers who killed Him had to admit He was no ordinary man. One soldier even exclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matt. 27:54). If Jesus was truly sinless and an innocent man, why was He condemned to die? The Bible says that Jesus died for us—in our place and for our sins (2 Cor. 5:21). He absorbed the death penalty that we deserved. When we trust in Jesus by faith for the forgiveness of sins, Scripture says we have “passed,” or “have crossed over”—just like a bridge—from death into eternal life (John 5:24).
- Jesus supplied the peace we could never secure. Have you ever watched three lanes of impatient drivers try to merge into a toll booth or an E-ZPass lane? It’s the opposite of peace. Yet Scripture says when Jesus accomplished our salvation by His perfect life and sacrificial death, He supplied the ultimate peace: peace with God. Jesus’ final legacy to us is not fear, confusion, or anxiety—but peace! In John 14:27 Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” No greater peace exists than the peace of knowing one’s sins have been fully and finally forgiven (Rom. 5:1). This is the peace only Jesus can give!
It has been a few months now since our trek to Ocean City and my six children are already talking about the next vacation. They’ve got sandy beaches and caramel popcorn in mind. But I’m already thinking about another four-mile ride across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. While that historic bridge provides some of the best scenery in the mid-Atlantic, it also affords me the chance to exercise my faith in concrete and steel. Thankfully, Mom’s advice still works when my nerves start to flutter.
But when it comes to my final day on earth, I’m not worried. God’s Word tells me the truth about my sins and the One Who came to save me. All of my fears have been exchanged for faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the one bridge we can trust.
Ryan Day (MMin, Baptist Bible Seminary) is pastor of Grace Baptist Church Hazleton, Pa.