FIRST-PERSON: The rains came
LEBANON, Tenn. (BP)--The daughter of some very good friends got married in early May. It was a day she and her family had anticipated for many months. They had made all the preparations and everything was lovely -- just as they had hoped. However, it was also the day that the rains that flooded Middle Tennessee began to fall.
Why didn't the sun shine? Didn't God care that it was a special day?
Just to be clear, I didn't hear anyone from this sweet family voice these thoughts. But I couldn't help feeling sorry and even a little angry over it.
I pondered these negative questions as we drove through the flooding that was rising in the town square and headed west to the reception. On the way, I noticed a wedding at another church and realized others were experiencing the same disappointments.
As we carefully made our way home that evening, barely getting over the one-lane bridge to our house, it began to dawn on me how serious this event really was. I could see houses in danger and roads being closed. Things were getting worse, and the next day the rain kept falling.
Sunday was Senior Recognition Day for my son and his friends at church. Again, I was struck by the fact that the rain seemed so indifferent to our plans. We took another road to town, avoiding the swollen creek that now ran over the bridge. I felt soggy and irritated by the inconvenience and the low attendance. But it humbled me to hear the struggles others were experiencing -- the loss of homes and even deaths in the Nashville area.
I wondered how in the world this devastating flood could be involved with bringing glory to God. But as I heard story after story on the news and in person, I knew that the flood -- as all things -- was under God's rule and designed for His purpose. As carefully as I can write and as gently as I can say it, if God is God then even this flood was from Him.
I can see at least three perspectives from which suffering glorifies God. First and most immediate is the perspective of the suffering Christian. I read a quote from Nancy Leigh DeMoss the other day that said, "Whatever draws us closer to God is a blessing." I am sure that I do not always respond in happy acquiescence to such a positive thought. However, I have been so blessed to hear the accounts of those who have lost all their material goods and yet are praising God. One young couple told of being caught in rising water on their way to church. They were forced to climb on the roof of the car, and finally realizing that there was no way for them to be rescued, they let the water and God carry them to safety. Did they know that they would be safe? No way! But they did know that they were no longer in charge. Their words pointed me to Him and He was glorified by the telling.
A second perspective to suffering is that of those who are not directly affected. As devastating as the flood has been to so many, there are many of us whose property and families have been kept safe and dry. How can we respond to the suffering of others in a way that will bring God glory? Again, I can recount tale after tale of ways that people have reached out to help. Some risked their own lives to rescue those who were trapped. Some have donated money, time and goods to help. Some have just shown up to clean businesses and homes of complete strangers. By being the hands of Jesus to those who are hurting, Christians are sharing God's love and bringing Him glory.
The third perspective that comes to mind is the one I least understand. It is the perspective of God. Do I know why God would let the rains fall so hard and so fast? No way -- and I have to admit that it really bothers me. But I do know my God. I know that He loves me and all His children. I know that He is a Father who gives us what we need and that He always hears and cares for us. And I know that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. And His purpose results in His glory.
For now as we see through this glass darkly, the rain may appear random and the floods indiscriminate, but we have a God who knows us personally and has a plan. Does this mean that we will never suffer? Consider His servant Job and know that we will. Look at His precious Son and remember that suffering is part of who we are. And whatever we do, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, in prosperity and in suffering, may we as the bride of Christ do it all for the glory of God.
Lisa Huddleston is a writer who lives with her husband Chuck, their three kids, two dogs and two cats on a farm near Lebanon, Tenn.