Back in June we had day after day of sunshine and warm weather here in the Mat-Su Valley. We Alaskans were almost overwhelmed by it after several weeks. I began to long for a rainy day. I even prayed for it because fires were springing up around the state, my grass was dying, and I could not keep up with watering our gardens and flowers. Rain finally came in mid-July, and it seems that it has hardly let up, and here it is August 26th, as of the day of this writing.
I can hear my mother saying one of her favorite sayings “Into each life a little rain must fall.” Lately it has been falling continually on all of us in the Valley, and from conversations I’ve had with friends, I think it’s safe to say it’s beginning to get to us! This is roughly our third straight week of solid rain, and the forecast doesn’t supply much hope of relief. On my phone weather app, the next ten days show a lone icon that indicates one day of ‘partly sunny, partly cloudy’ weather to break up the rainotony (there, I made up a word! That was on my bucket list. Please feel free to use it when discussing our current weather situation). I don’t know if I should even trust the weather app forecast, but I definitely won’t be making any indoor plans for that one non-rainy day.
I imagine there are pots of soup gracing the stoves of my Mat-Su neighbors rather than burgers getting flipped on the grill. I just stoked the fire in the wood stove for the umpteenth time today, unusual in the month of August in this part of Alaska. Even my dog just stands and looks out the open door and backs away, returning to his dog bed and deciding he can “hold it” a little longer. It’s just more than “a little rain”, Mom. It’s too much.
Do you ever feel that your life has more “rain” than you can stand? Does it feel like it will never let up and you won’t ever see the sun again? I have been through several rainy seasons at this point in life. It seems that the older I get, the longer and more frequent the proverbial rain falls on me. There are certainly bright spots in the day, and the sun peaks out when it can, but the gloom of illness, death, broken or strained relationships, strife in the world, and lost dreams seem to cloud over the day more frequently than before. What does God actually say about this metaphorical topic of rain in our lives?
God talks plainly to followers of Christ about these episodes of rain, citing them as “trials” in James 1:2-4 when He says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Trials (for this extended analogy, “rains”) produce a testing of our faith that leads to a steadfastness of our faith, making us more mature in that faith.
I have been studying and memorizing this passage in James since I was a teenager. I thought at that point in life that I knew pain and hardship. I did. But…nothing like I do now, almost 45 years later. My faith has been increasingly tested with the steady rain and although there are moments where it feels all too drenching, God has come alongside and held the umbrella for me. He has taken a turn at stoking the fire within, He has steered me toward a place to shelter from the storm…to wait it out and see what He is going to do in the midst of inclement life-weather.
There’s a Sunday School song that has the line “the rains came down, and the floods came up”, followed by “but the house on the rock stood firm”. This is good theology, based on Matthew 7:24-27 where Jesus speaks directly to his followers: “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
The foundation we choose determines the outcome of the building (our life), and the process of choosing the foundation is through wisdom or foolishness. The house might look exactly the same on the outside, but its foundation is either rock or sand. Only the rains are going to distinguish which is which. So, we need the rain to reveal our true selves…did we build on the foundation of the Rock (Christ and His word)? Or did we build on our own sandy understanding that is going to shift and wash away with the rain?
Mom also used to say “When it rains, it pours!”, once again referring to life challenges. Often times there are several troubles that converge at once, giving us reason to duck for cover. If we duck into the house built on the Rock, we are safely keeping ourselves from being destroyed by the coming flood. If we slip into the house of shifting truth and humanistic “wisdom” (which God actually refers to as foolishness) we will have moved into the house built on sand that will eventually collapse.
As we live through the continued forecast of rain, rain, and more rain let it serve as a caution to us to pursue God’s wisdom, to build our lives on it, to allow Him to refine our faith through the life-trials we are currently experiencing, and may we hold fast to Him as we shelter from the storms.