Did you know that on this day in history, 1972, a young man was struck by lightning in Waldport, Oregon? What makes it worse was that he was carrying 35 sticks of dynamite at the moment! Living here in close proximity to the Rocky Mountains, we are all too aware of the danger of being struck by lightning at high altitude.
But, can you imagine being Roy Sullivan? I was interested to learn about this park ranger from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. He was struck by lightning seven times between 1942 and 1977, surviving them all. In a book about the phenomenon of lightning, Out of the Blue, John Friedman talks about Sullivan’s traumatic experiences. In order, he was struck in a lookout tower, while driving on a mountain road, walking in his yard, standing in a ranger station, getting out of his truck, checking a campsite near Skyline Drive, and fishing in a freshwater pool. He caught fire during one strike, singed his eyebrows, suffered chest and stomach burns, injured an ankle, and seared his left shoulder through these frightening experiences, but he never was seriously injured. Was he “lucky”? Apparently, he did not think so. No one knows why he did it for sure, whether being rejected by a woman he loved or dreading future lightning strikes, but the big, burly lightning rod of a man died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1983 at the age of 71 (Friedman, 3-5).
Have you ever felt like you were receiving more than your fair share of adverse, difficult circumstances? Like you were going from being hit by one bad situation after another? What do you do when bad things keep happening to you?
Interestingly, Sullivan did not view this as God’s punishment. He astutely told a TV audience that if God had wanted to do him in, He could have easily done so with only one strike! What we should not do is look at suffering and trials as something with which God is trying to punish us. All of us need character refinement and discipline (Heb. 12:5ff), but dare we say that those we see suffering need more refining. Job and his friends, as well as people in Jesus’ day (John 9:1f), automatically saw suffering as divine punishment. But, bad things happen to good people.
A series of unfortunate events may befall us at times in life. But, we are not alone. Others are hurting. And, we can grow from these pains. Most of all, remember that “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).