By Dr. David R. Downey
The rains swept in yesterday, and I am looking out of my window at an overcast day. Clouds have gathered and it is breezy and dark. Rain is imminent.
I love rain. It often starts with a timid tap, tap, tapping, and increases to a drumming roar. After the rain, the fragrance is like a fresh, damp basket of laundry. The result is happy green things, washed air, and a sense of joy. Even the birds understand this as they come out singing just after the storm.
We can learn much about the Lord when it rains, sometimes more when it does not.
Wherever my family and I have moved recently has been in the middle of a drought. Some time ago we moved to central Florida where I read in a garden book, “Drought is never a problem.” However, much of Florida was in the first year of a horrible drought when we arrived, which lasted another two years and set records for dryness. It got so bad, the city I lived in issued an ordinance prohibiting, among other things, filling birdbaths!
Just after the drought was relieved and Florida was recovering, we moved to north Texas . . . and found ourselves in drought again.
As a plant lover, I usually begin garden and tree planting as soon as I arrive at a new home. I have a “live and let live” philosophy about garden plants, but trees—that is another matter. Trees are here to stay. When trees are stressed by drought, I can feel the dryness in my bones.
I began to wonder: Why does God allow this? How long will he wait to send relief? Why are my prayers not heard? What happens if it never rains again? (The drought in Florida had many people on their knees, churches were having prayer meetings to ask for rain, and the local newspaper reported that the atheists were glad we were praying!)
As I prayed and sought the Lord’s comfort, I learned two valuable lessons:
We are dependent.
While I fought valiantly to keep my yard alive, I was aware that the world seemed to be dying. I had some control over the small plantings in my yard, but I had no control over the trees, the rivers, the lakes, or the creatures in the fields that depend on water sources. Everything was drying up, and the best my efforts and resources could do was to hopefully keep my small patch of earth green.
God’s hand is on our lives in a fundamental way, yet sometimes we might forget that we are dependent. When everything seems to be going OK, when we have a semblance of control over our world, we may forget him; but when things fall apart and we find we have no control, we find prayer necessary.
A person who does not believe in our Creator should admit that they are still dependent on something. Humanism fails to have an answer for uncontrollable disaster, as it must just stand in awe with a feeling of helplessness.
For Christians, our immediate response to disaster should be an awareness of our need for God’s benevolence—we are always dependent upon it. When God withholds his hand even for a few moments, we realize how much we need his care. This should also apply when no disaster is near. When things are going merrily, we should still be aware of our absolute dependence on God.
When Moses on Sinai was given the message to give to the children of the Lord, it was a message of dependence. Moses said in Deuteronomy 6:5 that God is one and is the only God and that every child of God should love him with all their heart, soul, and strength. This command is the bedrock on which God built the covenant from Sinai.
In the words that followed, God said when the children of Israel acknowledged him and followed him, they would be blessed; when they did not, they would be cursed. It is as simple as this: when we walk with God, we are blessed. And therein is the warning. Moses said when “your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied,” it is possible to grow proud and say, “‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God for it is he that gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:13, 17, 18). It is possible, if not easy, to forget God’s part in our lives.
Dependence on Almighty God is a happy state. Imagine if God were to withdraw from our world. All would be lost. The natural laws would cease, chaos would ensue, and life would be snuffed out. When we realize that God’s sustenance is constant and necessary, we can live in a state of happy dependence.
Thanksgiving is simple awareness.
When it finally rained after so many days in both times of drought that we lived through, I was amazed. In a few hours, the rain from the hand of God reversed the sad effects on my lawn and gardens. The trees greened up and recovered, and the rain kept coming!
God is efficient when he is sufficient. We see the efficiency and power of God when he steps in and relieves us—whether it is to end a drought, to heal a disease, or to answer a prayer of desperation. We will be wise to recognize that he “has done everything well” (Mark 7:37). Meditating on this when the rains are not coming, or when they do, reminds us that the best choice is always to walk in his ways.
Moses brought this promise of God to the Israelites: “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where rocks are iron, and you can dig copper out of the hills. When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you” (Deuteronomy 8:7-10).
God kept his promise, but the Israelites forgot their part. Throughout the conquest narrated in the book of Joshua, and then even more brazenly through the judges and the history of the kings, God’s children often forgot to remember him as the source of their blessings. Exile and the scattering of the nation were the result of this disobedience.
Heeding their example, we should go and not do likewise. Our benefits are even greater, as we are able to view the revelation of Jesus Christ and have the indwelling Holy Spirit to remind us. The “drought” of the cross was relieved by the copious rain of the resurrection followed by the showers of Pentecost. Comparatively, we might extend grace to the Israelites for their disobedience in light of our greater revelation. We should resolve to be aware of our blessings and so be thankful. Thanksgiving is simple awareness that God is always our provider.
When the rains came and ended the horrible drought I experienced, I was Gene Kelly, singing in the rain. I did not actually sing in the rain but I sang about the rain! The rain falling on our land from the hand of God restored my health. I rejoiced!
I have not forgotten this lesson: God is benevolent—during drought or plenty—and he always deserves our thanks.
You may be facing mounting challenges. You may be carrying heavy burdens of sorrow, pain, loss of health, family struggles, or career failure. On the other hand, possibly everything is going your way. Regardless of circumstances, God is always benevolent.
Isaiah reminded the faithful, “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:11).
The next time it rains, God is speaking to us: “Tap, tap, tap—I am here and I care for you. I love you, shine or rain.” Then the downpour comes.
Dr. David R. Downey is a minister and freelance writer in Fort Worth, Texas.