Friday evening, a friend and I were on a photography backpacking trip in the Monongahela National Forest of WV, up on a 4200 ft. mountain, 2 miles from the car and just starting to head back on the trail through the forest. We had been out in the woods and away from civilization (other than driving to other spots) since mid-day Thursday, and thus oblivious to any weather reports or warnings. That was our situation at 8:45 PM, when the mid-Atlantic area experienced a rather uncommon storm called a Derecho...pretty much a straight line storm with hurricane force winds that can also spawn tornadoes. We suddenly heard a sound coming from straight ahead that sounded like a loud locomotive, and the sky had turned a strange black. We were both looking at it in wonder for a few seconds, mesmerized, when it suddenly dawned on us we were in extreme danger. I yelled and we began to run, heavy packs on our backs, returning toward a cliff area where we had planned to camp. We had a 1/4 mile to go, the storm was instantly on us, tree limbs snapping off overhead and large trees being bent over like grass in a field. It was terrifying and a feeling came over me like I would not survive this event. I was praying to God to be spared as I ran.
We ended up reaching the cliff area and there was a slot through the rocks about 5-7 ft. wide that steeply descended about 75 ft. down to the base. That is where we took refuge, and for the next hour watched the most severe display of wind, noise and destruction that I had ever seen up close. We could look up the slot at the forest as this went on, and I couldn't imagine the terror or danger we would have faced up there in it. I soon realized that we were safe, though there was likely no other safety from this within many miles. It was a prayer that was answered, or a sanctuary that God had been leading us to all day since we were totally helpless and unaware. We walked out around 10:30 PM and with headlamps couldn't see far into the woods, but there were downed trees up to the diameter of trash cans every 100 yards or so across the trail for the entire 2 miles. Most were not up-rooted, but snapped off 10-30 ft. up.
The next day, and now several days after, all I can feel is extreme gratitude for the mercy God showed us in providing safety from that storm. Nobody can be ready for that kind of sudden peril out on a summer day in the woods. It has filled me with joy just to be able to go on in life and be with my loved ones; it could have easily been taken away. The feelings of gratitude and relief have actually made it an experience I wouldn't have wanted to miss, though certainly not go through again. It now also has me convicted that God has saved me from the hopelessness and condemnation I was due and powerless to overcome, the rescue being the sacrifice of His Son. How much greater a gift to be saved from eternal death, than simply the one all will face here? Being saved from a life-threatening illness or perilous situation will give any believer an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God for His mercy. How much more that should be for His eternal rescue by His gift of Jesus! I pray that I can take that and apply it in the way I live in His service, and would ask anyone reading this to meditate on the meaning of eternal salvation.