Photo by Brian Gruber from

Back in 2003 I went to a huge outdoor worship event in the middle of Nowhere, Texas.  Thousands and thousands of college students came and pitched tents in a wide open field miles from civilization, and prayed and learned songs all weekend in preparation for Memorial Day Monday when we would stand before the Lord from dawn to midnight and seek His face together.  It was a beautiful concept.

I was slightly over aged (no longer in college) and so I volunteered to work.  They put me on – yay – prayer team 🙂  This meant I got into a huge worship meeting in exchange for…praying for people.  This was cool..very cool.

But anyway, anyone who thought they were coming to OneDay for a fun festival walk through the park sort of thing was sadly about to be dramatically proven to be…slightly mistaken.  From the very first evening, storms blew in.  Big storms.  LOUD storms.  Storms with HUGE BOLTS OF LIGHTNING that slammed into camp sending huge bulk prayers into the Heavenlies.  Yes, a good time was had by all.

An especially good time was had by the three students who got struck by lightning while trying to spread a tarp over their tent.  According to the other volunteers, they all got thrown about 20 feet into the air.  They went to the hospital complaining, thankfully, of headaches.  The word among the volunteer staff said that they all felt they had learned some important spiritual stuff out of the experience, which I don’t doubt, although I have no idea what the content might have been.

But after two nights of this, I had a shift in the prayer tent and a young girl, about 15 years old was in there.  As a prayer team volunteer, I dutifully walked up to her and asked if there was anything she would like me to pray with her about.  She quietly told me that there was something really bugging her – and then began to recount how terrified she was during the storms.  She wanted me to pray with her to be able to trust God more.  She said that the young adult group she came with was telling her that God would keep her safe and she needed to start believing that.   She not only felt fear of the storms, but she was feeling pressure and shame from her peers that she wasn’t more “faith filled” instead of “fear filled.” She was finding it hard to not be scared while lightning was hitting all around her.

As she went on and on about how unspiritual she felt compared to the people she came with, and how they kept telling her that God would protect everyone, I looked at her and felt annoyed by her youth group and wondered if the reason that she was unable to be consoled was because she needed a different kind of comfort.  So I looked this girl straight in the eyes and told her the last thing she probably expected to come from me.

“Your youth group is wrong.”

I waited for the shock to register.  She looked at me wide-eyed.  “Huh?”

“There were three kids hit by lightning here the other night,” I said, the authoritative voice of the volunteer in the orange vest.

She just stared at me, utterly dumbfounded.  I didn’t want to leave her there too long.

“So, the real issue here isn’t whether or not you trust God to keep you safe.  Because He might not.  The real issue is whether or not you feel you are called to be here.”

She looked at me, and I saw what I was hoping to see – courage rising in her eyes, her fears validated and her triumphing over them all at once.   Honestly, I’m not sure that I was completely on target to think there was really a good reason to feel “called” to be camping out in a field in the middle of a lightning storm – so I think I might have been a bit off track about that part of things.   But the principle I think was true – God rarely gives us guarantees that there is nothing that can go wrong, nothing we could fear in various situations.   I tend towards believing that God is going to keep me safe, especially when prayer is given towards a topic.   But I have to admit I’ve seen prayer fail.   I’ve seen myself and others get hurt, in situations where we didn’t even know we should have been praying.   Things happen.   And fears are sometimes not off base.   Mostly in life we are called to follow the hard path of knowing that things could certainly go wrong, and that God might let those things go wrong, and that some part of us is ok even with that.   But that doesn’t mean we can’t fear.

Stay tuned for part 2.   Or just click on it here: