“…For He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
As a child I went to church on my own. I don’t know if I heard some bad theology along the way or if I just developed it on my own due to my tendency towards skewed “black-white” thinking patterns. Basically, my skewed theology was that if I was good enough I would begin to have a problem free life and it would be filled with all sorts of blessings and I would mostly experience happiness.
It was a long time before I found people with whom I felt safe enough to to ask questions about the Bible and even longer before I found people with whom I felt safe enough to share the disappointment I have felt towards God because I wasn't finding the Christian life easy. In fact, I have experienced many trials both in the past and as a believer in church even though I exhausted myself trying both to do what I thought He wanted me to do and to be what He wanted me to be. Sadly, even as I am writing this I know as hard as I was trying hard to be good, I had secret sins I committed, I remembered the ugly words I’ve screamed in anger, the even uglier thoughts I silenced before they came out of my mouth, the harsh judgments I’ve pronounced against others, and how many times I have refused to face pain by holding on to bitterness as I refused to forgive. I was recently at an American Association of Christian Counselors conference and took a lot of good workshops on how to help people who are in emotional pain. As always, when I am taking workshops I can’t help but reflect back on my healing journey, especially my relational journey with God. The above verse was such an eye opener for me. It helped me to accept that the abuse I endured was not because I was a bad little girl and to see the trials I've faced as a believer have not been the result of being a bad “Christian.” They were simply the result of living in a fallen world with people like me who a tendency to sin. As long as I live I know I will experience both God’s sunshine and His rain.
But an interesting thought I've had is that the word storm is often used to illustrate trials in our lives. Some of the storms can be little storms, but some of them can feel like emotional hurricanes. I think it is interesting that the verse above doesn’t place a judgment on the sunshine or the rain. Both of them are needed for life to be sustained. I realized awhile back I needed to change how I viewed the Christian life. The truth is God never promised me a problem-free, trial-free, or pain-free life. As long as I'm alive, I will experience storms along with the brighter times.
After thinking about that truth the Israelites came to mind. They were being led by God out of Egypt by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day to guide and to protect them that maybe God has a very different view of clouds than I do. Then I came across a devotional by Jill Briscoe and she penned the term clouds of glory. Because I find Israel’s journey out of Egypt similar to the Christian life, I couldn’t help but wonder how my outlook on life would be different if when I first begin to view a “storm clouds forming on the horizon” if I viewed them as clouds of glory instead of just trials or storms to endure. It might seem odd to call it clouds of glory, unless I think of what the trials accomplish in me. They give me a chance to exercise faith so it matures and strengthens and becomes a part of the core of my being instead of fluctuating from a double-minded position, changing with the wind. They give me the chance to grow in my character as I develop qualities like patience, endurance, and perseverance, all of which ultimately result in me having joy. Sometimes clouds give me the chance to grow in my relationships as I realize trials in the context of relationship expose my selfishness, my self-centered tendency to make life all about me, my tendency to bear grudges and mete out grace sparingly, and my tendency to love poorly in the face of conflict.
I think by preparing to learn and to lean into God as storms begin to brew and to commit to fully trusting Him that the storms have the potential to accomplish the work God is attempting to do in me. As I exercise faith, I allow His character to be formed in me and learn to love as He loves. And as He is glorified, the “Storm Clouds” of this life will truly be seen as clouds of glory. As I look at the clouds on the horizon as potential clouds of glory I am drawn to His word and His promises in the face of storms and I will walk with Him through them. He will protect me from the self-destructive ways that come from trying to do life apart from Him and help me find purpose in what He has called me to I endure and thrive through. The protection always comes from walking closely with Him in the midst of storms and continuing to walk upright when others might crumble. It comes in letting Him empower me to love others in ways that I am not capable of doing without His help. It comes in letting Him empower me to forgive what I I believe is unforgiveable. It comes in believing He loves me and cares about all that pertains to me. It comes in knowing His intention is never to harm me, but to continue the work that He began when I came to Him by faith.
Prayer: Father, I pray that every storm cloud I face will truly become a cloud of glory as I learn to cling to you in all trials whether situational, events, relational, or spiritual. I want my life and my responses to what happens in it to bring glory and honor to you. Amen.