Sunday, January 17, 2016

When Lightning Strikes

Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken – Psalm 55:22

The following article was originally published in the Sunday School take-home paper, Seek, on September 9, 2001. Since I received notice of the story's acceptance long before the publication date, I didn't notice until just now that the date it appeared was two days before 9/11. God's timing amazes me. As I wrote about the “inconvenience” I went through when lightning struck my house, I didn't know the incredible and tragic “inconvenience” that would follow for our country. This question of dealing with unexpected events in our lives can be applied in many ways. I hope you find my experience a blessing to you.

When Lightning Strikes

Don't you know how inconvenient this is, Lord?

The question summed up my feelings as I watched flames lick at the side of my house. The stark honesty of my question caught me by surprise.

I wasn't dealing with fear or anger or distress. I was irritated that my day had been interrupted by a lightning strike.

My annoyance exemplifies the fast-paced, don't-get-in-my-way attitude of our culture. Perhaps I needed the self revelation provided by a lightning strike. More importantly, I needed to redirect my attention to God.

I had just settled down for a Sunday afternoon nap when the storm moved in fast and furious. My head had barely hit the pillow when a loud crack made me sit up and take notice. There was no doubt that lightning had struck close.

It had, in fact, struck just outside our kitchen window. Within minutes I saw smoke. I ran outside and was greeted by the sight of flames licking up the side of the house. They were only three feet away from two propane tanks.

Ideally this would be the time for a Christian to thank God for his protection. No one had been injured. There had been no explosion. And while the rain soon soaked me to the skin, it also served to hold the flames down.

Instead, as I waited for the fire department to arrive, I went through all the usual questions: “Why did you let this happen, God? Don't you control the weather? Couldn't you have redirected the lightning?”

And then came the other question. The one that revealed my true human nature: “God, don't you know how inconvenient this is?”

My dismay at the sight of flames shooting up the side of my house turned out to be nothing less than irritation that God had interrupted my nap. I was complaining.

It's comforting to know that I am not alone in my human condition. Some people aren't happy unless they're complaining.

Even the Psalmist complained – and quite often. David's most open complaints are found in Psalm 55. Granted, he had good reason to complain. His son and his best friend had betrayed him. He, the King of Israel, was forced to run for his life.

In verses 2-3 he gives in to his human nature and voices his complaint.

“Give heed to me and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and am surely distracted, because of the voice of the enemy, because of the pressure of the wicked; For they bring down trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me.”

Absolam's coup was inconvenient. It was an interruption of David's life, and for a moment he took his eyes off God. The fear and anguish was more than he could bear.

“Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest” (verse 6, New American Standard Version).

Haven't we all felt like this at one time or another? I didn't want to deal with the insurance company and contractors. If only I could just go back to my nap and let it all go away. Like David, I had taken my eyes off God.

David didn't forget God for long. As he begins to pray for vindication, his eyes turn once again to the God of his fathers, and his faith is strengthened.

“As for me, I shall call upon God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, and He will hear my voice” (verses 16 and 17).

My thought process was very similar to David's. After I got my complaint out of my system, I too, turned to God in prayer. That refocused my thoughts off the fire, and all the inconveniences it caused, and onto Him.

Now that my eyes were properly focused, my list of things to be thankful for grew. There was the quick response of the fire department. They doused the fire before it had a chance to get through the siding and insulation to the old farmhouse plaster walls.

Later we discovered just how much punch that lightning bolt had carried. Not only had it knocked out our phone lines (without damaging our phones), it had also traveled through the ground and followed the underground electric line to the barn. An outlet was fried, but the breaker tripped before the surge could reach the freezer.

By 9:30 Monday morning, the electricity to the barn and telephone service had been restored, the gas line repaired, and the contractor's estimate was on its way to the insurance company. The hassles I had dreaded never materialized. But it wasn't over yet.

By Thursday, we had no water. When the plumber pulled the line from the well he discovered that the lightning had followed the water line from the house to the well. It cracked the old lining in the well and sliced the water line in half. Apparently the secondary line was able to carry water for three days until the pump lost its prime. But thank God it had not damaged the pump.

The power in that single bolt of lightning was breathtaking. Without exception, every repairman said exactly the same thing: “I've never seen anything like it.”

Was God in control of that lightning bolt? He certainly was. Could he have kept it from striking our house at all? Of course, he could have, just as he could have prevented Absolam and Ahithophel from rebelling against David. But as a result of his experience David realized his dependence on God, his faith was strengthened, and we have one of the most beautiful promises in Scripture.

“Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).

That verse, the result of David's own test of faith, has been a comfort to millions of Christians down through the centuries.

God had some lessons to teach me, as well. He revealed an area of my heart that wasn't surrendered to Him. And he showed me that He is in control, and in His sovereignty He still loves me enough to protect me on a Sunday afternoon in August.

The lightning was an inconvenience. It was an interruption of my schedule. But perhaps we all need to have our schedules interrupted now and then to draw our eyes and our hearts back to God.