2 Thessalonians 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance.
Clara (5) has a unique relationship with bad weather. For most of us, the presence of cloudy, rainy day induces a coma-like state best accompanied by a steaming cup of cocoa, a warm blanket and a blissful nap. Not my Clara. Rain inspires her to don her rain boots, grab her umbrella and go romping, laughing and playing in the midst of the storm.
It is raining here today. True to form, Clara is as excited as a bee in field of wildflowers. She has sung, smiled and splashed all afternoon. Watching out my window, I was reminded of a day over 35 years ago when I splashed in the rain with my siblings. We were on vacation in New York City and no doubt had an agenda full of sight-seeing that summer day. Rain may not have been on the itinerary yet the laughter and wonder of those moments have settled permanently in my heart. Other than the Statue of Liberty, I do not recall a single other landmark I witnessed that vacation but I do remember the joy of splashing in the rain.
This morning's reading was 2 Thessalonians 3. Paul is finishing out his second letter to the church at Thessalonica. In this epistle, Paul has equipped the church to face hardship by focusing their hearts on the long-term perspective of everlasting life which waits after this brief stop here on earth. As he closes this letter, he yearns for God to "direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance." (Verse 5)
God's love is the single most compelling force ever known. God's love drove His only Son to die in my place and yours. It was Christ's perseverance that kept Him on the cross until He could cry, "It is finished." There is no rain that has ever or will ever splash down on my little world that could begin to compare to the agony Jesus endured on my behalf. In fact, Jesus died that I might be able, like Clara, to have joy amidst the rain of my life.
In James 1:2-5, he writes, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." Indeed it is possible to have joy among the rain.
I must admit that when one of my children rebels, or I have an unexpected, unbudgeted expense or when illness befalls my household, my first inclination is not to splash around in the puddles of my storm. Maybe that's because I haven't let God direct my heart to His love and Christ's perseverance.
When I think about it, my response to trials is quite a bit like my response to rain:
- I Stay Indoors - It seems everything is made more difficult when it rains. My hair looks bad. Traffic gets congested. It is so much easier to just go hide in my house and wait out the storm then to get out in that mess. God doesn't want me to hide from my problems. He is with me. I don't enter the storm alone. It is with His confidence that I can leave the safety of my home and go confidently into the rain.
- I Use My Blanket - When I pull my blanket tightly around me, I can not even feel the temperature drop associated with the rain. I successfully completely insulate myself from the effects of the weather. I cover myself from the rain because I don't want to have to feel its' impact. It is in the storm not away from it that God transforms my attitude, life and character. This usually requires feeling some difficult emotions.
- I Take a Nap - Wake me up when this is over. Have you ever wanted to just check out of life until the storm has passed you by? I know I have. When I sleep my way through a difficult time, I miss the lessons God could be teaching me. Like James noted, trials lead ultimately to wisdom. That wisdom is gained in the fiesta of a storm, not a siesta from a storm.