Here I am, Lord. I’m listening, looking for vision.
I see a big rock standing on a beach, on the shoreline. It’s huge, rough, large enough for several people to stand on. The surf crashes around it, splashing foam up on it. The sky is blue, the water’s a deep blue-green. It could be a scene in the Caribbean. It’s a beautiful sunny day. What would you like to say, Father?
You’re studying My Sermon on the Mount, correct?
Yes, for a CCTC class.
How does the Sermon end?
It compares two guys, a wise man and a fool. Both guys hear Your words. The wise one responds to your teaching with faith and obedience. You compare him to somebody who builds his house on a rock. The fool hears you, but he doesn’t do anything constructive with the information. His life doesn’t change. He’s like somebody who builds his house out on the sand.
Then what happens?
The storm comes. The hurricane force winds blow. The wise man’s house stands; the fool’s collapses with a huge crash.
So what do the storms represent?
Life. Adversity, setbacks. Problems. The pressures of living in a fallen world and a decaying culture. Could be relational problems, financial setbacks, health issues, persecution, misunderstandings, habits, addictions.
And the house?
Well, one’s life, I suppose. The whole of one’s lifestyle, relationships, finances; one’s character. I think of the 4 categories in Luke 2:52: intellectual (wisdom), physical (stature), spiritual (favor with God), social (favor with man) facets of ones’ life- or lack thereof.
So- the storms provide a useful function, no?
Well, they reveal what kind of stuff I’m made of, and my faith is made of. Am I just hearing Your instructions but building my life on a totally different foundation: pride, selfishness, sloth, all manner of self-indulgence? Or am I truly building on the solid rock foundation of love, self-sacrifice, diligence, personal holiness, service, generosity. And are these things truly coming from a pure heart or from pride: practicing my righteousness before men.
So do you thank Me for the storms? They truly reveal things to you that are important for you to know!
Well, I know I should thank You. Guess that’s why Your word says to give thanks in everything. But in the rough and tumble of life, I confess that’s not my first inclination!
There’s not a whole lot recently that I would characterize as “storms”. Sheryl’s health problems- that’s been a storm for sure. So is that something I should thank You for?
Remember Paul’s wording carefully. He said to give thanks in everything, not for everything. That’s not splitting hairs. I’m not expecting thanks for high blood pressure, but I think I deserve some gratitude for the reality that I’m using her issues to teach you both more about trust, rest, mutual service and interdependence, faith, patience, etc. Romans 8:28 and all that. I really am working this thing for good in both of your lives.
And the point is not to go looking for storms or, worse yet, creating them so you can learn stuff. No, that will happen naturally enough. I just want to remind you that when they do come (and come they will) they always will show you something about your foundation, about the quality of your faith- if you remember to look for it.
This is pretty much the same lesson as the two guys in Jeremiah 17, isn’t it?
Pretty much. The image is different- two trees in a drought versus two houses in a storm. The drought came to both. The quality and depth of their roots (i.e., faith) was revealed by the quality of the fruit they bore in the middle of the drought. My servant John of the Cross wrote of the Dark Night of the Soul, an experience of going through an emotional and spiritual drought, where the conscious awareness of and delight in My presence seems to fade away. As he observed, those experiences serve My higher purpose, too- to increase your capacity to walk in and live by faith and not sight. The purpose is not to punish, but to strengthen and purify.
Makes me think of the chorus we sing at church:
Every blessing You pour out I’ll turn back to praise.
When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say,
Blessed be the name of the Lord….
There you go! So the point is to remember when the storm or the drought or the dark night closes in: My purpose is always to bring, ultimately, blessing, maturity, stability, fruitfulness and joy. If you keep your eyes fixed on that reality, than you can give thanks and rejoice. Maybe not for the drought and darkness and storm, but in and through them, for sure!