I was feeling really down. Nothing life-threatening. Just a rough couple of days in a row, lots of frustrations and no progress. You know how it is.
I hadn’t gone running for three days, partly because of feeling so overwhelmed by the chaos around me. But I finally forced myself to take a walk. It was around 1:30pm and our daily Florida rainstorm (mandated during the summer months by government decree, I believe) was not due until after 3. So I pulled my shoes on and sloughed off down the road.
However, it was one of those days where the weight of my burden and general fatigue made it feel impossible to run. So I just walked…and complained.
I griped at God for the first 15 minutes of my little excursion, with no running. You see, running would have interrupted my concentration on how pitiful I was. I needed to concentrate on all the things I was ticked about, so I just marched along like a little angry soldier, grumbling into the humid midday air.
Then the raindrops started. Perfect.
I kept trudging along, thinking it might blow over. It didn’t.
Now I’m in a soaking downpour. I run over and take refuge under a tree, mostly because I made the mistake of bringing my cell phone. I shift it to the least-damp pocket and hope I’ll be shielded from the worst of it.
Not a chance.
Awesome. I’m at the furthest point of my neighborhood from home, and I’m caught in a pouring rainstorm. If I wasn’t already depressed enough, this is the cherry on top. So I just stood there under the tree, quietly paralyzed by discouragement as the water seeped into every inch of my clothing.
I bet I looked pretty goofy to God as he watched me acting like an angry child. I bet I also looked kind of creepy to anyone in one of the apartments nearby. There’s a big guy lurking in the shrubs under a tree, facing their home and looking mad in the rain. Surprised I didn’t get tazed by the neighborhood association!
Then God began to speak. I guess it was his first chance to get a word in edgewise all day.
“David, if I allow a storm in your life, I must have a purpose in letting you go through it. Right?”
Yeah, sure. I already know where this is going. I’ve followed God long enough to know that when I go through a trial, it had to get past God first before it could ever get to me. So it must be his will. And his will is always ultimately good, even if temporarily painful.
Got it. Been there, got the T-shirt. Thanks for nothing.
“Your problem is you want me to change your circumstance. Just like you were hoping the rain would end while you stood under this tree and you’d walk home dry, you’re hoping I would let you out of the trial you’re facing.
But that’s not going to happen today. One way or another, today you’re going to get wet. So quit pouting and thinking that will change my mind. Because it won’t.”
Wow, that was encouraging, wasn’t it? God says life’s gonna be a pain now, no matter what I try to do to get shelter from it. So suck it up, buttercup!
Now I’m even somewhat more defiant. As I’m grumbling to myself about how stubborn God can be, it never occurs to me his stubbornness might just have some purpose…as opposed to mine. My stubbornness is determined to just stand their stupidly in the rain, like a dumb animal with no good sense.
“Here’s a thought, son. Since I’m not stopping the storm, nor am I keeping you from getting wet, what good is standing still? Instead of standing here soaking wet under a tree that’s doing absolutely nothing to keep you dry, wouldn’t it be better if you just keep moving?
It’s pretty clear now you’re going to be soaked eventually. And once you’re soaked, you can’t really get more soaked—soaked is soaked. So the quicker you get moving and stop waiting for something that’s not gonna happen, the quicker you’ll get home and out of the storm.”
Or like the old preacher used to say, “If you’re going through hell, for heaven sake, don’t stop there—keep going!”
I’ve noticed that when I’m overwhelmed, I reach a certain saturation point when more added “overwhelmingness” doesn’t really make things any worse. You know, chaos + chaos = chaos. Once you’re in it, more of it makes little difference. So embrace it and run on through it, as quickly as you can. For heaven’s sake, don’t prolong it if you can help it.
So after a few more minutes of standing under my useless “tree umbrella”, I took a deep breath and did what I hadn’t felt like doing all day—I started running.
The rain was soaking me, but I had already reached my “saturation point” so it didn’t really matter. Eventually, I reached home. I took my phone out and checked it. It still worked fine.
Then God told me one last thing…
“When you keep moving forward in spite of a storm, you’ll accomplish things you couldn’t before specifically because of that storm. You see the storm as your enemy, but I send it to you as a friend.
Without that rain, you would never have felt the need to run today. You would have just continued on your sulky, self-absorbed walk. The storm forced you to be absorbed with something outside of yourself, and it pushed you to push beyond your limits and make it home.
Without that storm, you’d still be depressed. Without the storm, you would have never run today. And worst of all, you would have missed an opportunity to hear me speak to you. So aren’t you happy for the storm now?”
It’s hard to argue with God, isn’t it, when you know he’s always right?
The best thing I learn from the storms God allows in my life is this: that more than God calming the storm, knowing his presence is with me IN the storm is better than the calm, safe existence I seek. Nothing in this life is better than hearing him speak, and realizing there’s a purpose in your pain, a meaning in your madness, and a testimony coming from your test.
Wow, now I’m really overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by his glory, and the sound of his voice thundering through the storm.