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Bright Light, Bad News

Updated: Aug 21, 2022

from Summer Skies

August 14 Aurora

And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness II Corinthians 12:9a.

In 1859, British astronomer Richard Carrington was sketching an unusually large group of sunspots when he was astonished to see a blindingly white flash erupt from the sun’s surface. Seventeen hours later, night skies from the Arctic Circle to Tahiti erupted in a massive light show of the Aurora Borealis. Witnesses reported being able to read newspapers by its light.

In fact, Carrington saw “a white-light solar flare—a magnetic explosion on the sun,” explains Solar Physicist David Hathaway. In 1859, Carrington was first to observe a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) which occurs when instabilities in the sun’s magnetic field suddenly release jets of plasma and magnetic loops into space. If the Earth happens to be in the path of these's bad news. Very bad. Carrington witnessed the largest CME ever recorded, now known as the Carrington Event. Today, giant solar storms are measured against the 1859 event: ‘A Carrington-Class Event.’

Although Carrington observed the sun as it reached solar maximum, the sun can produce massive outbursts even during solar minimum, when the sun is at its weakest. Even so, when CMEs occur, they crash into Earth’s magnetic field, “causing the global bubble of magnetism that surrounds our planet to shake and quiver.” CMEs create geomagnetic storms, yes, but also our beautiful Northern Lights.

Christians sometimes experience the equivalent of a geomagnetic storm during times of ‘fiery trials that test us’ (I Peter 4:12). When Paul experienced a searing, personal trial, he asked God to remove the very thorn causing the fiery test. God didn’t remove the thorn, but instead told Paul, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness II Corinthians 12:9a. When he heard God’s answer, Paul realized when he appeared to be at his weakest, then God could be at His strongest: when I am weak, then am I strong II Corinthians 12:10b. Rather than be released from the storms, Paul welcomed them so a Carrington-class, Divine power might energize his faith.

Oh Father, I pray for faith like Paul’s, faith to understand, even welcome fiery tests that cause my human bubble to shake and quiver. Give me faith to accept how Your strength is made perfect in weakness, for when You are my strength, then You can radiate within me and through me the aurora of Your Divine glory.

Photo credit: NASA

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