Standing in the Rain
There’s nothing like a cold all day shower to make you want a good, hot bath. After standing in cool fall rain for most of the day my first goal after work was getting warm.
It’s like this: my job that rainy day was cutting lumber on a saw that sits outside. In sunshine, you might get a tan, but in rain, you begin to rust.
My old red rain slicker shed much of the water from my head and torso—and distributed it to my jeans and socks. It wasn't long before even my gloves were saturated. I grew intensely cold and when I tried to pull my gloves off, I found I had lost much of the feeling in one of my fingertips.
I thought of all the garden plants getting a refreshing drink. That’s good, but I’m no plant, and I wanted to huddle next to a hot fire under a cozy roof.
I thought of Corrie ten Boom experiencing winter at the Ravensbruck concentration camp, stamping her numbed feet with the other women as they stood in line for morning roll call. A bit dramatic, I know, but I could taste the edges of her misery from my station at the saw.
I set my mind to consider the Lord. My limited success didn’t ease my discomfort as hours dragged by. To make matters worse, my safety glasses, already covered with droplets of rain, fogged up at one point, and I could scarcely see out of the right lens. My mind traced over an old hymn I’ve loved:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
“Strangely dim” . . . I knew dim vision on this cloud-darkened day in the rain. The monotony of low-grade suffering made it difficult to concentrate on anything, but in the distance, I could hear the drumming patter of background thoughts. “Hold on,” they seemed to say—and that was about all I could do.
I’d like to report that I enjoyed singing in the rain and spent the hours in grateful reflection on God’s goodness. After all, most days I'm able to stay reasonably warm and quite dry—and that is cause for thanks.
But for the most part, I found myself simply holding on, getting through, waiting for the end. And in the process, I learned something about endurance.
When we’re told that Jesus endured the cross, it’s explained in the same breath that He despised the shame (Hebrews 12:2–3). Jesus didn’t savor the moment, though it was the hour He had planned for from eternity. He simply endured.
And He anticipated. When pain closed His eyes and thoughts to the world around Him, He looked beyond the anguish to exaltation. When His disciples left Him—when He was forsaken even by His own Father—Jesus clung to the certainty of renewed fellowship. When He fought to say one last word, He gasped, “It is finished!”
Our Savior didn’t call “bad” “good”—the bad was really bad. He didn’t remark on the pleasure of the journey—there was none. But with His dying breath He did sound one note of triumph, "It is over, it’s complete. I’ve performed the task I was sent to accomplish; the debt is paid. It’s done.”
It’s true that Jesus desired to do the will of His Father (Psalm 40:6–8; Hebrews 10:5–7), that His will was inextricably woven together with the will of God. His will was God’s will. But that didn’t make suffering less painful or dull the anguish of experiencing the will of God.
The process was still an endurance.
It feels spiritual to minimize our troubles: “It’s not really that bad,” when confronted with financial turbulence; “Cheer up,” when awash in grief; “Keep on the sunny side,” when standing in the rain.
It’s true that there’s plenty in life to mope about, plenty to feed an Eeyore complex. And we know that discouragement is a weight that will sink any ship. But unfounded optimism is as damaging as unfounded pessimism because both are forms of dishonesty.
If your ship is sinking, admitting it opens the way to glorifying God for His deliverance when it comes. If the sun shines on your day, it’s borrowing trouble to complain, “. . . just means we’re one day closer to rain.”
There is a joy in suffering when we know that God is at work. That’s the encouragement of James 1:2–4: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Trials build immovable characters, people who remain unshaken in the storms of life. Those so tested weather the gale. They wait for the Lord who stills the tempest. They expect the strength of God to carry them through. They set their eyes on Christ alone. They joy in knowing that God is at work—and they hold on, though every hope is dashed and every pleasure stripped, though abandoned in loneliness or swamped with grief.
Suffering is our chance to hold on, to cling to the very Person of God, to learn that He who commands every storm will bring this to an end in His good time. And in the process, He’ll make us oaks of righteousness, steadfast, that He may be glorified.
I’m realizing that I’d rather have God than a cozy fireside, that I’d rather know Him than be understood or appreciated, that I’d rather be drowned in His will than sunning on a beach of my own. Anyone can say, “I delight to do Your will, my God”—but those who’ve endured know what that means, and for knowing, love God more.
Even if it means standing in the rain.
the confession of our hope
for He who promised is faithful.
P.S.—For clarification, Andrew was the willing subject of the rain-coat re-enactment—and Rose was more than willing to water her brother on a sunny afternoon.
© October 2011 by Robert G. Robbins