Ever had a period of life that can only be accurately described by the old cliche, “when it rains, it pours”?
Last fall was like that for me. My relationship with my then-fiancé was being stretched. Both of us were truly doing our best; it was just a season of our relationship that we had to grow through. And in our case, the growing pains felt exceptional.
I remember praying in the shower at the end of a particularly rough day… crying…when something my mom always says surfaced in my thoughts:
“Feelings are like clouds,
they come and they go.
But God is like the sun; his light is always shining,
even if the clouds make it seem not so.”
While I have always loved this image, that particular evening, I was just supremely annoyed by it.
“It’s been cloudy and pouring for days,” I said to myself/God (whom I knew knows my thoughts), “why do you let it to storm this much?”
Immediately an image of Ireland flooded my mind.
If you’ve never been to Ireland, you should know that it’s perpetually cloudy and gray.
It rains just about everyday…
Sometimes it’s just a little drizzle…
Sometimes it rains “off and on” multiple times a day…
Sometimes it’s a steady downpour the whole day…
But when the clouds break and the wind stops blowing, Ireland almost seems to be an entirely new place…
This was the memory God placed in my mind that day as I struggled to suffer graciously.
In response to my defiance, he wasn’t cruel, or unhappy with me. He simply responded ever-so-sweetly and said,
“Remember what I can bring from the rain…”
If you’re anything like me, you might also be quick to ask God to relieve you of your suffering.
I always want him to take it away… I never want to suffer. I have faith in his supreme power… in my bones, I know that he can do anything…
For some reason, I think he should take away uneasiness I experience… that because of my faith in him, I should be exempt from the slightest of discomforts…
My emotions cry out, “Why do we need this?! Get us away from the pain!”
I am eager to believe I shouldn’t have to suffer…. quick to conclude that there’s no good reason for my struggle… prideful enough to think that I deserve to be excused from any uncomfortable situation.
And so I challenge my God, “why don’t you fix this?!”
And it’s then I realize who I’m acting like…
“Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39)
“I don’t deserve this”? Of course I deserve this! I am the one who is lacking!
Even when my suffering is not the result of my own wrong-doings, my rebuke and dismissive attitude towards my cross is prideful and sinful.
Why do I think I shouldn’t have to suffer?
Why do I think I should be exempt from pain, when Christ himself was not?
Despite my pride, God’s love does not condemn me. He did not lash out at the thief… and he did not lash out at me.
Instead, he reminded me that he can do more than alleviate my sufferings… he can transform them. He can take something ugly, that Satan only meant for harm, and his grace can make it something his enemy never intended for it to be.
Can you imagine how infuriating that must be for Satan? No wonder he tries to make us give up hope, turn away from God and shut ourselves off from his grace!
When we hold fast to the idea of the “Son” shining behind the clouds, we keep our hearts open to grace. We allow God to transform the tactics of his enemy, bringing about our good, instead of destruction. By turning away from God, it’s as if we are turning our backs on the sun, and then complaining that it is not shining…
Like the washing of monotonous Irish rains results in unexpected beauty, God takes the drizzles and darkness of life, and brings about beauty and righteousness.
My God, My God… I thought I didn’t deserve my suffering.
But the truth is, I do not deserve you.
“You are a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in distress; shelter from the rain, shade from the heat.” ~Isaiah 25:4