Friday, October 17, 2008

Storms and Rainbows

It's rained quite a bit in Houston the last couple of days--not an entirely unwelcome turn in the weather, considering that the area has dried out a little too much for comfort since last month's hurricane and that the whole of 2008 has been shorter than average on rain. The modern tendency to use "rain" as a metaphor for hard times and misery tends to forget how essential rain really is--and that in the Bible, "rain" is a good thing at least as often as not. Jesus's famous words from Mt. 5:45--"your Father in heaven... causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (NIV)--probably refers not to a blessing versus a curse, but to two complementary blessings.

Still, rain (like sun) can quickly turn into a curse when it arrives in seemingly unlimited amounts. Just about everyone has heard of Noah's flood; and in the same Sermon on the Mount where Jesus mentioned the rain's falling on the just and the unjust, He told the parable of the wise and foolish builders, where rain causes rough times if not total catastrophe.

Incidentally, the famous quote "Into each life some rain must fall" is not from the Bible, but from the nineteenth-century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Longfellow knew his share of "rain"; twice widowed, he carried for his last twenty years burn scars from the same fire that killed his second wife. Virtually everyone who lives a normal life span will experience at least one real tragedy at some time. For some, the agony is sudden, wrenching, and totally unexpected; for others, it is so long and drawn-out that the tragic end is almost a relief.

It's comforting to know that for Christians, tragedy is never the real ending. A happy final ending is waiting beyond this world.

As the rainbow that was created after Noah's flood symbolizes God's promise never again to send such total catastrophe, the rainbow surrounding God's Heavenly Throne is a sign that no "flood" will ever again reach His servants there.

It rained in the time of Noah
Forty days and as many nights,
Till the mountains were under water
As it rose to unheard-of heights,
And it washed away earth's corruption;
So God gave a fresh start to all:
And He set in the sky a rainbow,
To bring hope after each rainfall.

It rained in the time of Jesus
Over many a shore and coast,
Leaving many a house in shambles
To give lie to the builder's boast.
Jesus told us to choose foundations
Made of rock to withstand the storm:
Human spirits are filled with rainbows
When we trust Christ to save from harm.

It rains in each life that's human,
Through real weather and floods of pain,
Till some feel life is drowned forever,
Blown to shambles by hurricane.
But what first seems to be disaster
Can bring cleansing to start anew,
If we look to God's Heavenly Rainbow
And stand strong in His Light so true.

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