The sun finally came out and stayed out yesterday.
You’d think that after spending the majority of my life in the Pacific Northwest that I would be accustomed to days and days and days of gray cloud cover and significant amounts of rainfall. You’d think that, right? Well, I confess I’ve acclimatized to South African life. South Africa averages 300 days of sunlight per year. That’s the majority of the year! And if the sky is ever overcast during the day, the sun usually makes an appearance at some point.
When the sun appeared yesterday and remained all day long, it was a welcome sight. Sadly, the amount of rain that our part of the world endured the past two weeks brought flooding, took the lives of precious children and others, destroyed homes, displaced thousands of people, caused dam overflow and dam wall breakage, cracked road surfaces and created numerous sinkholes and potholes, contributed to power loss, and affected the livelihood of thousands of people. For many, the past two weeks have been devastating. For some people the rain events of the past two weeks were catastrophic and life changing. And for the majority, like me, the clouds and rain were something to endure until the downpours finally ceased, the sun appeared, and things began to dry out.
If you listened to people over the past couple of weeks, there wasn’t a lot of joy in their voices. Nearly every one asked the same question, “When is this rain going to stop????”
For in this part of the world, at this time of the year, we experience late summer and early autumn rainfall. However, it usually lasts a short while. It’s just enough to keep the grass green and the trees and shrubs watered a little longer, before the dry autumn and winter days settle upon the South African high veld. So, none of us expected the rains to continue as they did or to cause so much trouble.
Yet, life is like that, isn’t it?
Clouds roll in over the horizon. They can be clouds of illness, unemployment, marital discord, broken relationships, a wayward child, betrayal, mistrust, depression, wrong decisions or misunderstanding and more.
Heavy, dark, gray blankets of cloud cover descend. We’re buried in darkness and unfamiliar and unsure about what is happening.
Soon, the clouds are not able to contain the bursting amounts of water. Water is sent cascading forth to the earth below. Still in the dark, all of a sudden, we’re flooded with the realization that we are not in control.
The rain strikes the earth’s surface with various levels of impact. For some the rain is rejuvenating, replenishing and life-giving as we work through what is happening and look upon the struggle as an opportunity for personal growth and gain. Yet, in other places in our souls, too much water invokes pain, hardship, loss and even death. We’d like to look at the rain and be glad and embrace what is happening. However, for the majority of us who have been hit hard by the force of destruction and devastation, we’re grasping for hope and we’re hurting.
What do we do when the rain stops, the sun comes out, and we’re still feeling the pain of the past?
How do we look up from the devastation and look for God’s sweet restoration?
Paul wrote these words to the Philippian church, Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write these same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you” (NIV, Philippians 3:1).
So, what is Paul saying here?
He first tells the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord. Our outward circumstances and various struggles do not have to impact our joy, our trust, and our faith in our God. No matter what amount of flood waters have encroached upon our lives, our God is near and He is with us.
Second, the hope we have in Christ is an anchor during devastating storm fronts and holds us fast even after the storms have passed.
We have this hope as an anchor of the soul, firm and secure (NIV, Hebrews 6:19a).
Our safeguard is Christ.
Safeguard comes from the Greek transliterated word, asphales. Asphales means certain, true, reliable, and definite.
The flood barriers may not hold, but the safety and security we have in Christ will never be shaken, cracked, or laid waste.
In northern South Africa, the sun is shining again. However, the roads that have been washed away, the children who were lost to the strong flood currents, the homes that were destroyed and lay in ruin have left many with broken hearts. The sun may be shining, but they may still feel crushed under the weight of the water’s force. The pain has cut deep and the wounds are not yet healed.
May we all remember that even when the sun is shining, there are those that remain hurting among us. To glibly say, “Rejoice in the Lord,” would be uncaring and insensitive. Yet coupled with this exhortative truth, is that our joy, security and strength are found in the safeguard of Christ. Down, down, down deep, we are held secure by the anchor of Christ. This is how we rejoice. We rejoice in the truth that He is holding us fast and He is near.
In the same way, the Son is always shining despite the clouds that form that one day may cause a flood of pain, a flood of loss and a flood of change. Will you picture it? Our Savior shines over every situation. Our Savior is firmly anchored below us holding us secure as well.
I can’t help but think how secure and hemmed in we are as I picture my Savior above, below and surrounding me with His love, His care and His help. If you know me, you’ll know that my favorite all-time verse is Psalm 139:5 “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.”
We can rejoice in that.
We don’t have to rejoice in the pain and the hardship. But we can rejoice in the love, security, peace and blessing we have in our Lord and Savior who is near. He can redeem and restore whatever has happened to us. He can. He can. He can. And He will!
We have a safeguard in Christ. Let’s not forget that during the storms of life and then afterwards as we recover, rebuild, and are renewed after the flood waters have washed away. Our God is near and He is with us.
Photo by SABC News; Limpopo Floods