The Bible tells us what lightning is: a tool that shows the great power of God. Its crashing and sizzling make an announcement to the world: God is at work! He is full of power! (See Job 36:30-33.)
God tells lightning exactly where to strike. And He has used it in very specific ways in history. We see that in a story about a man named Martin.
One day in the summer of 1505, Martin was walking to school in Germany. He was a promising student. His father wanted him to become a lawyer.
Suddenly, a bolt of lightning streaked from the sky to the ground. Martin was terrified! He cried out, “Help, Saint Anne! I’ll become a monk!” (Back then, most people in Germany were Roman Catholics. They did not pray only to God in Jesus’ name. They also prayed and asked for help from Christians who had already died. They also tried to win God’s kindness by doing good things. Becoming a monk was just one example.)
Martin survived the squall. And though he did not want to, he kept his promise. He became a monk. He did many good works and made himself suffer by fasting and taking long journeys to religious sites. But no matter how hard he worked, he still felt sinful.
Eventually, Martin read the Bible closely for himself. He learned that Jesus had done all the work already. He could trust in His grace. He challenged leaders in the Roman Catholic Church to think about God in a new (but actually very old) way. God did not want people to earn His favor. They couldn’t, even if they tried! But He would forgive their sins if they trusted in Jesus. Then they could do good works out of love, not fear.
Martin Luther changed the church forever, starting what is called the Protestant Reformation. And, if the legend is true, it all started with a bolt of lightning.