In late August 2023, my town received a torrential amount of rainstorms over a short period, causing widespread flooding. We have a sump pump in our basement that had been working overtime as water poured furiously and non-stop into the tank, and thankfully, we had survived unscathed. Our fully finished and furnished basement contains our family room, my office, and a workout room—we spend much of our time down there.
As I tried to sleep through the hours of storming, I was launched from bed at midnight by a terrifying sound when you own a basement in the middle of a colossal rainfall: the sound of the power going out.
Sump pumps, for the uninitiated, are famously dependent on power.
I bolted downstairs in the blackness, fumbling with my phone’s flashlight, checking on the sump pump tank. Thankfully, we have a lithium battery backup for such a time as this!
I was dismayed, however, to see that it was completely dead.
Fear not! Thankfully, we also have a separate water-powered backup for such a time as this! This backup needs no power, so we were safe.
However, it quickly became apparent that this backup could not possibly keep up with the sheer volume of water pouring frantically into the tank. An overflow was imminent, which would flood the basement.
I yelled for my wife, and, with flashlights, we scrambled to grab some bowls, buckets, and garbage cans to bail out the tank and hopefully prevent a flooded basement.
As the storm raged outside, my wife rapidly bailed water from the tank into garbage cans, and I frantically grabbed the heavy loads and lugged them as quickly as I could to dump them out, only to dash back to the sump to grab the next full container.
We did this by flashlight in the powered-out darkness of that midnight, in the air-conditionless August mugginess, for nearly 3 hours, at which point the incoming water levels had slowed enough that the backup water-powered sump could keep up with the water coming in. We collapsed into bed, every muscle screaming in middle-aged protest, but with peace that we did our jobs and prevented a flooded basement. Several hours later, the power returned, and our sump pump worked non-stop for the next couple of days to keep our basement continuously dry.
Now, I am a teacher by nature, so time is never wasted for people like me; that night, as I spent hours lugging heavy loads of water away, my teacher-brain had much time to wander toward what possible lessons and teaching illustrations I might glean from this experience. What would this night teach me about struggle? Trials? Teamwork? Hard work?
Here’s what I got:
1. Well-laid plans don’t always matter.
One of my favourite Bible stories is from Acts 8:26-40 — Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. I like it because Philip has no plan at each step of the story — he just follows the Spirit’s leading, and God does amazing things. I am a planner (evidenced by two backups for the sump pump!), but that planning didn’t help — we needed to pivot, fast. So, in life, we prepare, plan wisely and well — and then are ready to adapt as needed.
2. Other people make trials easier.
Without my wife, it would likely have ended in disaster (I’ve said that sentence in many situations, if I’m honest). One person needed to bail water, and one remove it. Beyond the extra hands, throughout that long night, I would tire, and she would rally me; when she was frustrated, I’d make her laugh. Scripture tells us to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” (Galatians 6:2). When the going gets tough, we need others, plain and simple.
3. Perseverance pays off.
In exhaustion, I wanted to quit many times that night, and if I had, I don’t think anyone could have blamed me — at times, it felt like an impossible task, and the physical toll was intense. If I had quit, I would likely still be dealing with the flood damage today. The only way to “lose” would have been to throw in the towel. Regarding our faith, we are told, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him,” (James 1:12). We only lose if we quit!
4. God’s grace is ultimately all we need.
I fully believe God gave us supernatural strength that night, and was with us in our efforts. He promises, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness,” (2 Corinthians 12:9). His grace was with us in the task. If we had slept through it and awoken to a flooded basement, His grace would have been with us there, too. We are never alone — whatever we face, He strengthens us in everything.
Of course, a flooded basement wouldn’t have been the end of the world; it’s just “stuff,” and we would have survived. In the grand scheme of suffering, this was mild. Still, I am proud of our efforts and happy for the result, and grateful for the lessons learned that go beyond just that dark and stormy night.
And yes, in a final lesson, I did purchase a generator to prevent this from happening again. Lesson learned.