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image used by permission, copyright Saiha Lehtonen
Saija Lehtonen is one of the photographers I follow and one of my long time favorites. She does a wide variety of subject matter, from hummingbirds, to macro flower shots, to sunsets and sunrises, to vast naturescapes like this one. This one got me thinking about what we perceive as good and bad, and how we deal with it. Do we run or do we stand?
Let’s start by looking at the picture. It’s raining. Something that’s good for the parched land. We’re obviously in a desert. The land is definitely dry. And the clouds are very foreboding. Threatening heavy downpours. All of that got me thinking about the potential scenario.
Very often, in the old West, you didn’t want to get caught in the middle of the desert in a torrential downpour. The heavy rain would come down too fast for the dry ground to absorb it. As a result, the ground didn’t get very much benefit from the rain. And places that normally were safe might become raging rivers with enough power to take down horse and rider, possibly drowning both. What should have been a blessing could become a curse. And yet, there’s vegetation that does stay alive only because of those storms.
The thought of those storms and avoiding the torrents, created a mental image. Of me hightailing it to high ground as the rain poured down. When I get to someplace safe and out of the torrential downpour, I look more like a soggy rag than a human being. But I’m safe and out of the rain. Our natural instinct is to avoid uncomfortable and painful situations. Comfortable is good, uncomfortable is bad. Painless is good, painful is bad. All of those thoughts are natural. But are they God’s thoughts?
When Moses asked to see God’s glory, in Exodus 33, God responded, “But, He said, You can not see My face, for no man shall see Me and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place beside Me, and you shall stand upon the rock, And while My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away My hand and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”
God was protecting Moses, much like my imagined run for covered high ground in the rain storm, from too much blessing. Remember that 23 chapters earlier Moses had been in God’s presence. And needed to wear a veil over his face because of the transferred glory, just from having been in God’s presence. Moses glowed like radium coated clock hands. Now it was God protecting Moses by only partially allowing his request. But, let’s look at some others.
There’s Joseph, in the Old Testament. As we read Genesis 37-47, he goes through a series of negative situations. He’s thrown in a pit, sold into slavery in another land, then his master’s wife tries to seduce him, and she accuses him of seducing her so he can’t accuse her. That landed him in prison. Those are pretty negative circumstances. But, without those circumstances, there wouldn’t have been the correct interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream. Which got Joseph elevated to second in command to Pharaoh, over all of Egypt. And ultimately, reconciliation with his family. Along with being able to ensure that they were able to live and eat comfortably in the midst of a famine. None of which could have happened had Joseph avoided the pit and the jail.
Where would we be without Jesus going through all He went through. Too much to go into, here. But without the trials and the Cross, our flesh would have denied us the possibility of spending eternity with God. Jesus certainly could have gotten Himself out of all that turmoil. But the end result would have been worse. The Father’s desire for all men to be with Him in eternity would have been fully denied.
There are modern day martyrs, like Richard Wurmbrand, who could vouch for the fact that their relationship with God would have been diminished by living an easy Christianity. And what about ourselves? We’ve each had negative circumstances in our lives. Some more compelling than others. Would we be the same without them? Would our relationship with the Lord be as rich if we had it easy? I can think of situations in my life that seemed horrendous. Yet, my closeness with God would have been much shallower without them.
How are you converting those bad experiences to spiritual gold by growing closer to God?