My area received a lot of rain last week, so it was fitting that my pastor included this verse in his Sunday message about suffering:
When the clouds are dark and heavy with rain, showers will fall upon the earth. (Ecclesiastes 11:3, VOICE)
He acknowledged our first thought at reading it is, “How obvious! Dark clouds bring rain.” Then he reminded us of the cultural context. This was written by King Solomon, who lived in Jerusalem, where the dry season lasts more than half the year. Yet when it rains, a significant amount can fall in a short time. So seeing the dark, heavy clouds roll in probably brought mixed emotions to Solomon and his people: eager anticipation of the life-giving water with dread of the storm that sometimes delivered it.
It is common knowledge that rain benefits plants, animals, and humans. Even the smell of rain is pleasant to most people. But many think of its delivery — especially from strong storms — as inconvenient, depressing, or frightening. I admit I selfishly wish it only rained at night, when I am tucked in my bed, so I could be comforted by hearing it, appreciate its benefits, but not endure the discomfort of a dripping umbrella or wet clothes, shoes, and hair!
Similarly, we often view the storms of life, hard situations, negatively. But what if life storms actually lead us toward far more life? What if we focused on their benefits rather than our discomfort?
It is common to believe we should be exempt from hardship and suffering, that we deserve perpetually good circumstances. This is not logical! When we look at God’s original plan for creation in Genesis 1 and 2, suffering was not included. But Adam and Eve chose to assert their own will rather than contentedly follow God’s will. Perhaps if they had realized suffering would be a result of sinning they would have chosen differently. Yet God, in His infinite kindness, brings good from our suffering.
God did not even spare His own Son from suffering on this earth. It was His suffering that paid the penalty for our sin and opened the door for us to have a restored relationship with God:
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3-5, NIV)
Jesus faced worse life storms than any other human! Fortunately suffering is not the end of His story; Isaiah prophesied the good it would produce:
After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:11-12, NIV)
None of us will ever suffer as much as Jesus did. But our suffering can bring good, too. It enables us to see the light of life. It changes our perspective, even bringing satisfaction and thankfulness. Consider how these verses describe the outcome of suffering:
He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. (Psalm 147:8, NIV)
Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. (Hebrews 6:7, NIV)
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45, NIV)
Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful… (Joel 2:23, NIV)
Jesus even used an intense storm to show His disciples who He was:
The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” (Luke 8:24-25, NIV)
Jesus offered His disciples far more life that day by showing His power and revealing His divinity. He invited them to put their faith in Him. He is bigger than any storm we face and willing to use that power for our benefit:
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32, NIV)
God will not withhold anything we need (Philippians 4:19).
Everything He does or allows — even suffering — is for the good of His children (Romans 8:28).
Thankfully, through faith in Christ, our suffering will come to an end (2 Peter 3:13).
He will wipe every tear from our eye (Revelation 21:4).
We will see and understand God’s bigger perspective (I Corinthians 13:12).
Until then, we have a choice: despise the storms or look for the beauty the rain brings. Choose to look for beauty — and find far more life!
Do you feel positive or negative about rain and storms? Why?
Think of a life storm you have experienced. What spiritual benefit did you gain from it?
What is your response to reading about Jesus’ suffering?
Thank God that Jesus paid the price so our suffering will one day end.
Commit to look for beauty and far more life in your next (or current) life storm.
Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo Credit: Kim Reem