The Hazard of Haughtiness
Are giraffes more at risk to lightning strikes than other animals? A new study addressed this question following the deaths of two giraffes in South Africa. This past February (2020) the two female giraffes died during a thunderstorm in the Rockwood Conservation preserve. One of the resident scientists, Ciska Scheijen, studied the incident and concluded that the taller of the two giraffes was struck directly on one of its horns (ossicones). The other giraffe, a younger and smaller female, was killed by a “side flash.” This is when lightning hits one object directly and then ricochets to a nearby object.
Scheijen reviewed other reports of giraffes killed by lightning. These included the deaths of two giraffes in June 2019 in a Florida wildlife park. In 2003, lightning struck and killed Betsy the giraffe at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida. In the late 1990s two giraffes died from lightning in the Rhino and Lion Reserve near Krugersdorp, South Africa. Another study in 2014 identified other such giraffe deaths.
Why do giraffes appear to be more susceptible than other animals to lightning strikes? Scheijen suggested the reason that we’ve probably already suspected. Giraffes are so tall (up to 19 feet tall) that they often serve as lightning rods. In South Africa, they are often the tallest objects in their environment. Plus, rainstorms do not do much to deter giraffes from going outside of their shelters. And because of their great height, giraffes are simply the closest target for lightning.
Doesn’t this illustrate the hazards of being too exalted in our own minds, i.e. the dangers of pride and arrogance? The Scripture tells us that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). In fact, Jesus warned that the person who exalts himself will be humbled – but those who humble themselves will be exalted by God (Matthew 23:12). Proverbs 16:18 tells us, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
Rather than have our “heads in the air” – like a giraffe begging the lightning to strike – the proper attitude of
the Christian believer is humility. Humility is simply acknowledging who we are in relation to God. We acknowledge our total dependency upon God for life, health, strength, success, and salvation. Instead of adopting a self-righteous attitude, as if we’re morally superior to others, we hang our heads in repentance and acknowledge our need for God’s mercy (Luke 18:9-14). Humility always impels us to reach out to God for help and guidance at the beginning of each new day. For we know that only God stands between us and disaster at any time.
So, if you’re feeling superior to others, then get your head out of the air. If you’ve got a haughty and arrogant demeanor, then please remember the giraffe and his vulnerability for getting hammered by the lightning. Let’s humble ourselves before God and seek His grace and love for this day (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5).
PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, please open my eyes to see my own frailty and complete dependence upon You. Help me to humble myself before You and to reach out to you for grace and help as I face the challenges of this day. Amen.
(Information from: https://www.livescience.com/giraffes-struck-by-lightning.html; https://allthatsinteresting.com/giraffes-lightning; https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/two-giraffes-killed-billion-one-lightning-strikes-florida-wildlife-park-n1016556; https://www.livescience.com/59605-does-lightning-strike-giraffes-more-than-other-animals.html; https://www.earthnetworks.com/blog/giraffes-struck-by-lightning/)