A few summers ago I wrote this post after the weather in Pittsburgh had seesawed back and forth for several days between drenching rains and bright sunny skies. I have been often reminded of the lesson in it these past few weeks. Yes, we’ve had our seasonal stutter start to spring, but we’re also experiencing on a grander scale uncertainty and confusion as a result of a pandemic, economic instability, and the loss of what we’ve always considered normal. Now more than ever we need the exhortation that we not, as Bridges says, “deprive ourselves of the peace” of knowing that the hand that sends it is good, wise, sovereign and perfect.
Recently, my husband and I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things. I left him—and my raincoat—in the car. “The weather has been so finicky lately,” I thought to myself. “I should bring it, but I don’t want to go back now.”
As I checked out at the register, I heard the distinct sound of heavy rain on the store’s roof. Sigh. Well, at least I could summon my husband to pick me up at the door. I waited outside with my bags and chatted it up with an older woman who came out and stood next to me while her granddaughter tried to get the attention of their ride. Of course, the topic was the weather. “It’s so unpredictable! One minute it’s raining, the next it’s sunny,” she said in a thick accent. “The day starts out hot and humid, then turns cold. You don’t know what to put on in the morning. You don’t know whether to wear sandals or boots!” I smiled and nodded my agreement that it’s been frustrating.
It took me a couple of seconds to figure out what it was she said next as I was watching for our car.
“You want me to do a reading for you? I can do that. I do that for you, read your future.”
“No, no, that’s okay. I don’t need that,” I said, and as my husband was already out of the car coming to take the bags from me, I left it at that.
The weather is “so unpredictable“! but “I can . . . read your future.” ?! It’s an outrageous contradiction, of course. Who wouldn’t notice the absurdity? And yet, don’t we just as easily fall into the same habits in speech and behavior?
As I write this, the sky has opened up, dumping buckets of rain, throwing thunderboomers around, lighting up with the flashes of lightning. Just a few hours earlier, the sun was shining and I was remarking how lovely the clouds looked against the blue summer curtain of sky. Just yesterday, I closed out an email to friends with these words, “Have a good day! IT’S BEAUTIFUL OUT THERE! NO RAIN!!!!!!!” Caps and multiple exclamation points included!
What is up with this weather? Rain, rain, and not just rain, but heavy downpours, flash flooding, and swollen springs, creeks and streams. Last week began with humidity so thick that walking outside felt like passing through the misting machines at the zoo. This week began with nights so cool I got an urgent request for an extra hoodie and pair of jeans from my son working at a camp. I think only once in the last three weeks has the sun shone all day, but we weren’t even in Pittsburgh the day we experienced that glorious weather.
What IS up with this weather? What is UP with this weather?! We watch our grass grow higher and higher with no hope of getting it under control in the marshy residue of the storms. We plan for outdoor weddings and graduation parties and then quickly—and with huffing remonstrances—rearrange decor and chairs and banquet tables when the skies dare threaten interference. We postpone trips to the pool, or the lake, or the zoo, or sightseeing. The weather won’t cooperate. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe later in the week. Maybe next month.
The weather won’t cooperate.
That’s how we usually talk, as if weather is an actor. Additionally, the verbs we use with it give it attributes that suggest volition and motivation. As if the weather has an option to cooperate or not to cooperate. And let’s take the usage lesson a little further. Cooperate implies a prepositional phrase to identify the cooperative relationship between weather and something else. What is that something else?
The weather—an inanimate force—is not cooperating with our plans.
Jerry Bridges, in his outstanding book Trusting God, points us to these scriptures about weather and who it is who acts upon the weather:
Keep listening to the thunder of his voice
and the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
Under the whole heaven he lets it go,
and his lightning to the corners of the earth.
After it his voice roars;
he thunders with his majestic voice,
and he does not restrain the lightnings when his voice is heard.
God thunders wondrously with his voice;
he does great things that we cannot comprehend.
For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’
likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.
From its chamber comes the whirlwind,
and cold from the scattering winds.
By the breath of God ice is given,
and the broad waters are frozen fast.
He loads the thick cloud with moisture;
the clouds scatter his lightning.
They turn around and around by his guidance,
to accomplish all that he commands them
on the face of the habitable world. (Job 37: 2-6, 9-12)
He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow. (Psalm 147: 8, 16-18)
When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightning for the rain,
and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses. (Jeremiah 10:13)
“I also withheld the rain from you
when there were yet three months to the harvest;
I would send rain on one city,
and send no rain on another city;
one field would have rain,
and the field on which it did not rain would wither.” (Amos 4:7)
Bridges then follows with,
“Complaining about the weather seems to be a favorite American pasttime. Sadly, we Christians often get caught up in this ungodly habit of our society. But when we complain about the weather, we are actually complaining against God who sent us our weather. We are, in fact, sinning against God.
Not only do we sin against God when we complain about the weather, we also deprive ourselves of the peace that comes from recognizing our heavenly Father is in control of it.”
Let’s remember how good we have it when it comes to the weather. Sure, we’ve had our share of flooding and lightning strikes and tornadoes in the area recently—and tragically some people’s lives have been affected. But we have not experienced a tsunami, nor a hurricane on the scale of Katrina or Rita, nor lines of tornadoes dropping from the sky to wipe out entire western Pennsylvania boroughs.
But even if we did have those things happen, would we not be able to say, along with Jeremiah Burroughs, “The soul comes to rejoice and find satisfaction in all God’s ways. . . . [A] godly man who has denied himself will suit with and be glad of all things that shall suit with God’s ends. A gracious heart says, ‘God’s ends are my ends, and I have denied my own ends’; so he has come to find contentment in all God’s ends and ways.” (The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment) Can I say, “I can be satisfied in all things because God’s ends are my ends”?
I am blessed each week to type the summary of the previous Sunday’s children’s lessons onto the Sunday School webpages. These may be lessons for children, but they convict and rebuke me in one sinful attitude or another nearly every time. In the 4th-6th grade class, the students have been learning about trusting God’s promises, and this week, I typed this:
- God fulfills his purpose for your life.
- God never forgets his promises; he always keeps his promises.
- God is accomplishing his eternal purposes through his children.
- God is not slow in keeping his promises; God’s timing is right.
- Those who trust in God’s wisdom, goodness, and power will wait confidently for him to act.
With the exhortation to: “Think about your attitude toward what God is accomplishing in your life. Do you grumble and complain about how God is accomplishing his purposes in you? How does God want you to respond to his work in you?“
Stuff for me to think about.
There was one verse from Job I skipped when I cited the passages from chapter 37 earlier in this article. Verse 13 says:
Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.
No, thank you, kind but misguided palm-reading lady, I don’t need to know what the future holds, because I know who holds the future. I am acquainted with the one who calms the storms, and I am at one with the one who stirs up the tempests; it is my Father who sends the rain and the sunshine on the evil and the good. He has many purposes in this world, and as great and majestic and influential it can be, what the weather will be is only one of his magnificent and supernatural daily accomplishments. I will humbly accede to him all his purposes, and in gratitude, I will rejoice and find satisfaction in all his ways.
Main image: Noelle Vandenbroucke on Unsplash