Today I was supposed to be going to a meeting. But the situation changed unexpectedly this morning and I have been unable to go to the meeting. I am frustrated and disappointed about that as it sounds like it would have been a really good occasion. But the change in circumstances as a result of this morning’s unexpected event means that now I have a little more time to catch up on admin and do some preparation that I was struggling to find space for. It’s not so much that every cloud has a silver lining so much as making the most of a situation.
“Every cloud has a silver lining” is a bizarre idiomatic proverb. It’s certainly not literally true. On the occasions when I have been in an aeroplane and it is flowing through a cloud it just goes grey and watery, not shiny and silvery. You can imagine that if it was literally silver inside by now we would be mining clouds! Who was it who first coined the phrase? (You can find some references to it here).
The problem is that even if you take the proverb in its metaphorical sense it’s still not true. Things don’t always turn out all right. Sometimes good does not come out of bad. Sometimes the bumper sticker is right (even if it’s not very eloquent): s#*t happens.
When you read some of the Psalms in the Bible the psalmist is going through dark times and there is no light at the end of the tunnel (not even the light of an oncoming train). And Jesus never promised anybody an easy ride for following him. In fact he suggested exactly the opposite was true: if you follow him you can expect persecution, opposition and s#*t happening.
So, you might be wondering, what’s the point? What do we gain from following Jesus, trying to live a life that pleases God and ending up getting persecuted?
The first thing (and you often find this in the Psalms) is a recognition that God is with us even in the darkest Valley. Everybody in this world experiences dark times but an awareness that God is with you, whilst it might not make things brighter, is a reassurance. Jesus gives us his Spirit who is with us whatever we go through and who can interpret the deepest groans of our being that we are unable to articulate and turn them into prayer.
Furthermore the Bible teaches us that stuff is not the most important thing in this life. Stuff breaks, rots, corrodes, becomes obsolete and loses value. Even money is finite and elusive. We leave this world as we came into it (I don’t necessarily mean naked and crying): empty-handed. But there is more to life than stuff and money and even more to life than living. I do believe in life before death but I also believe in life after death. That faith, hope, and expectation means that whilst I might struggle to find a silver lining inside a cloud I know that beyond the clouds is the brightest sunlight.
Be blessed, be a blessing
Are you any good at waiting?
Are a patient person, or do you get frustrated when your plans are delayed?
Do you see a red light (or even an amber one) as an opportunity to stop, admire the view, and do some thinking or do you see it as an imposition and an irritation – drumming your fingers on the steering wheel until the light turns green?
Do you find waiting easy, even when things are out of your control, or do you want to do all you can to expedite matters?
In the Bible there’s a verse which in some translations says, “those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength…” (Isaiah 40:31). In my translation it says, “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength…” [my italics]. The first translation made me wonder whether it was about waiting on heavenly tables and getting a tip from God!
Why the difference? The Hebrew word that is variously translated as ‘wait’ and ‘hope’ has different meanings and nuances all contained in the same word. It can mean ‘hope in a certain outcome’; ‘waiting patiently’; and ‘resting trustingly’ and in fact all three aspects are right. As a teenager we had a labrador dog called Bonnie. We used to balance a dog biscuit on Bonnie’s nose and tell her to wait. She would look at us pleadingly as she waited for the instruction to eat it. She would also drool, which was often an encouragement to us to allow her to have the biscuit before we drowned in drool. But she waited expectantly / hopefully / trustingly / patiently.
People who are expectant, patient and trusting in their relationship with God are promised renewed strength. It’s as if we keep putting on fresh strength like we put on fresh clothes daily. The strength is not specifically physical, it is the strength to persevere, to rise above life’s difficulties and problems, to keep going despite the odds. It’s an unnatural strength.
It’s the strength seen in people whose faith in Jesus puts their life in danger yet they refuse to deny that faith. It’s the strength shown by those who faith in God is mocked and ridiculed by others who do not share it.
When my children were a lot younger when they got tired we would carry them. We would tell them to hold on, and they would hold on tight, but actually they were held anyway. Waiting / expecting / hoping / trusting / resting in God is like that – we hold on to him in faith while, whether or not we are aware of it, we are held.
Be blessed, be a blessing