Welcome to spring in the south! Spring in the south is the first rainy season and sometimes can be very stormy with severe thunderstorms and even tornadoes. Good times! My children have decided that this is not such a bad thing. When Mom hears “severe weather threat,” the moratorium on TV on a school day usually gets lifted and everyone camps out in the basement for the afternoon. Mom on the other hand turns into a Nervous Nellie.
I don’t care for severe weather. One summer (more years ago than I care to recount) I served as a camp counselor on Lake Erie. From the safety of the dining hall, I watched with amazement as two waterspouts (water tornadoes) formed on the lake and danced around for a while. That night a storm positively raged around my cabin as I held vigil with a flashlight, my Bible and a whole heap of prayer. The next morning I got my girls ready for the day and then we went outside to look around before breakfast. Directly behind my cabin a 100-year-old oak tree had been struck by lightning and had crashed to the ground – away from the building. Had it gone any other way, I would not be writing today.
As we walked to breakfast that morning, I was positively struck. All the birds were singing louder than I remember any other morning that summer. The grass was such a vibrant green it almost made your eyes hurt. The clouds that had appeared positively vengeful the night before, had vanished and left behind nothing but peaceful blue. The lake was no longer raging but was almost laughing as it lapped the rocks on the shore. It was such a shift from one day to the next that here I am more than a decade later still stunned.
Not all storms are that radical of course. This past Sunday we had a full day of steady rain. Just rain – all day. It was actually quite peaceful. And while there wasn’t a stark difference after the rain passed (it’s actually been just gray and dreary since), the effects can still be seen. Remember that garden I planted? Some of my beans have jumped three inches in the last week. My spinach and lettuce are begging to be thinned and turned into a delightful salad. And the butterfly garden is going gang busters!
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Faith storms can be brutal. Health scares, financial tightropes, marital chaos, parenting challenges that aren’t in any parenting guidebook on any shelf, personal heart droughts – can all terrify, anger, and completely depress us. Unfortunately faith doesn’t come with doppler radar. We don’t get fun orange, red, and green digital blobs to tell us when the storm will be past us. There isn’t some faith-ologist pointing at a heart-shaped map warning us that a storm is coming either. Sometimes we just look up and there it is raging all around us.
Sometimes we can see it coming though. We feel a burden but it passes. We don’t feel like praying or reading for a few days. Those are the slow steady rains of faith storms. They just wear at us. We get tired of trying to hear God. We get tired of constantly looking for the other side of the storm. We just want it to end.
When you are sitting on the bottom bunk in the middle of the storm in the middle of the darkest night, you don’t know what to do. I remember being overwhelmed by how dark it got that night. Even the dusk to dawn lights in the common area between the cabins went out. I really had no idea how long the night would last and I was terrified. I was responsible for eleven other people. All I could pray was, “Get us through safely.” I never asked God to make the storm stop and I’m not really sure why. Maybe I knew enough about weather to know that it just had to happen.
James is so encouraging in this! He didn’t stop at “Hey a trial is going to come.” I love that he saw it through all the way to the end – an end we won’t see on this earth. The trials and storm will come to force us into God’s hand. Trials can do two things – force us to lean into our faith or make us rail against it. If we choose to lean into our faith, we can stand. And the longer we stand, the stronger we become because we see that we ARE surviving by God’s grace and love. If we stand through the storm, we can see the other side and know that God is able to carry us through even stronger storms.
My prayer life has been kicked around in a lot of storms since I became a parent. As we enter the tween and teen years, I can already tell that it is going to get kicked around abundantly more! I used to cry myself to sleep over teething with Big Kid. It was brutal and I thought I was never going to make a decent mother. With Top Middle it was potty training. Teeth we had conquered – the loo was another matter. With Bottom Middle, I don’t think we will ever ride a bike without great wailing and gnashing of teeth. Little Bit might actually make it to college without making me lose my mind! (I’m such an optimist!)
I don’t know if you find yourself in a steady rain kind of storm that is draining your energy and confidence. Perhaps you find yourself in a much scarier, life altering storm that looks like it will completely destroy you. Please take comfort in the knowledge that on the other side of this storm the birds WILL sing again. On the other side, God will make your faith perfect.