Jesus, Bring the Rain
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, Psalm 8, Romans 5:1-5, John 16:12-15
One of the Christian bands I like to listen to is called “Mercy Me.” You may know them for their most famous song, “I can only imagine.” In a more recent album, they have a song called “Bring the Rain.” Here are the words of the chorus:
Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there’ll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that’s what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain
Sometimes, in order to be glorified, God needs us to walk some really dark pathways so that others can see that He’s worth clinging to, even in the worst of times, when His presence is impossible to discern. This is a time when His voice is really, really hard to hear. Sometimes, in the middle of those storms, I can’t hear it at all so all I can do is say to myself, “Well, I know He’s there, and He’s speaking comfort into my life, even if I can’t feel it. I simply choose to walk forward as though I could hear it.”
It took me a long, long time to come to the place where I could say that. And if someone had told me that after I had chosen to place my trust in him (as opposed to just saying I was a Christian, which doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with trusting) I would encounter even harder trials than the ones I had beforehand, I might have balked. I might have said to myself, “I can barely stand what I’m dealing with now. Why would I want to ask for more?”
I think that’s why Jesus says to his disciples today, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” As he speaks to them, he knows what it is they’ll be asked to endure to glorify him in the months and years to come, but they can’t face that just yet. They have not seen Jesus raised from the dead. They have not experienced their own abject failure and Jesus’ unqualified acceptance in spite of it all. They have not known His power and forgiveness that intimately, and so there are things they can only hear from the Spirit after they’ve been in the presence of the Resurrected Lord.
What all this means for us who seek to hear His voice is this. If we have not entered into His presence, if we have not given up our self-concocted notions of safety and dared to stand in the Presence of the One who is both infinitely dangerous and infinitely safe, then there is still much that we will not hear from Him. He will not ask us to bear a word for which we have not been prepared. He can only prepare us if we walk from the Court of the Gentiles all the way into the Holy of Holies, where His presence is a consuming fire that burns the dross out of us, leaving us unfettered, free. (I started to write “all the dross” but I realize that in my experience, there’s always more to be found when I go back.)
Still, having allowed him to touch me with his scorching gaze, and having survived, I find that I am not only alive, but more alive than I’d have been if I’d never risked it. And having walked that path, I trust Him to see me through the things He’ll call me experience so that I can exalt him in the midst of the earthquakes and storms. And so I hear His voice in new and wonderful ways as He speaks His delight over me in preparation for the times of testing He also tells me about. Having known what it is to dwell in the shelter of His wings, I can sing with Mercy Me,
Jesus, bring the rain.
As I prayed about what to bring as an opening daily reflection to go with “Bring the Rain,” I was first struck by the realization that there are still a million things He wants to speak into my life that I’m not ready to bear yet.
Jesus knew, as he invited the disciples to look forward to greater levels of revelation, that He would soon be sending them the Comforter, the Advocate. With the aid of the Holy Spirit, they would grow in their ability to hear what He had to say to them. With the aid of the Holy Spirit, I too will find that there is more to be heard than I had thought. But I need more time in His presence, more time being tempered by the heat of His gaze.
Today, as you think about what He might have to say to you that He can’t say now, listen for the hunger. Listen for the cry from your heart that says, “More! I want more!” and then pray something like this:
Heavenly Father, help me to hear Jesus’ caution as an invitation to seek more of You, more of Your voice, Your face. Make me hungry for You, and for the next word You have for me, whether comforting or chastening, and help me to seek the time with You that will make me able to hear.
In Jesus’ Name,
This is an act of mercy, you know? His withholding of Himself. Even Moses was only granted a view of God’s back as He passed by (Exodus 33:23). One day He will be able to reveal all of His terrible love for me, the pain that it has cost Him, the sweetness of it, too, but for now, He has to say to me, “Not yet.”
How does it feel to know that you cannot yet bear the enormity of His love? What does your heart say when He says, “No.” Is there frustration? Sorrow? Maybe even a little relief? Listen for your own inner voice as you answer His “no.” Then pray something like this:
Heavenly Father, I am ____________ (sick, heartbroken, frustrated) that there is so much more that You will not share with me today. Help me to walk this path of _____________ , in the knowledge that as I endure this, You build in me the character to see and hear more in the days to come.
In Jesus’ Name,
Many young soldiers sign up for combat out of love. Love for country, for brothers lost, for family threatened. Love leads them into basic training, having little or no notion of what they will encounter when real war breaks out around them. I have a good friend who is a WWII vet whose stories confirm those I have heard from Korea, Viet Nam, and Iraq.
Love leads us to volunteer to walk in dark places where our steadfastness will be tested and where we will be given the opportunity to demonstrate the worthiness of those for whom we have chosen this path.
Today, as we listen to Jesus’ caution that more lies ahead than we are able to hear, perhaps we can respond to His love with love of our own, and pray something like this:
Heavenly Father, I know that I am not yet able to hear all that lies in my future, but as long as You are in it, I want to go there. Be my strength when my own fails and help me to walk in ways that give You glory.
In Jesus’ Name.
As I ponder the sheer idiocy of telling God that I’ll walk with Him as far as He wants me to go, I hear two conflicting voices. (Neither of them His.) One is terrified. “What are you saying Jeff? Do you have any idea what you’re committing yourself to? Of course not! I have a really bad feeling about this!”
The other is the “brave” one. “Oh, be quiet. We’ll be fine. You can’t let on that you’re scared. That looks like you don’t have any faith. If you MUST be so frightened, at least keep it to yourself!”
The first voice, for all its appearance of faithlessness, opens doors to the Father’s heart. The second one tries to nail those doors shut. The difference between asking God to be my strength when I am weak and trying to be brave in my own strength, or even just trying to appear to be brave in my own strength, is incalculable. There is no witness to God’s goodness in my ability to tough it out on my own. There is no invitation to the weak to discover hands that can carry them too when I “buck up.”
As Jesus chided His disciples (especially in Matthew) “Oh you of little faith,” I may hear Him speak His confidence into my situation when I am overcome with fear. This isn’t criticism, just a loving statement of the truth. And then, because I have dared to show my empty faith storeroom, He is faithful to refill it. Today, as you contemplate the places you’ve volunteered to go, places you can’t yet imagine, listen for the voice of your fear, and let it speak. Then pray something like this:
Heavenly Father, I really don’t like this part of myself, this scared part. It’s embarrassing, and it’s hard to believe that it gives You glory for me to be frightened. Still, You have said that Your strength is made perfect in my weakness, and I know that even Your Son shed sweat like drops of blood in the garden. Give me the courage to be afraid.
In Jesus’ Name.
“I’m totally scared, I have no idea in this darkness where I’m about to place my foot, but I’m walking.”
I confess that I haven’t yet grown strong enough in my relationship to Jesus that He has withdrawn from me and left me totally in the dark for very long. But I know it’s going to happen one day. Oh, there are surely days where I feel dry, and where I am called upon to persist, to carry on in spite of the dryness, but I’ve never had one of those 6 month “wilderness times” when I was tempted to think it had all been a figment of my own imagination up to that point.
But they do come.
I’ve read enough to know now that there will be times when He will withhold Himself, His “consolations” so that I will learn to pursue Him with greater steadfastness and ardor. In those times, I will learn to love Him simply for Who He Is instead of for the wonderful feelings I get when I’m in His company. I don’t dread this wilderness, but I’m not quite looking forward to it, either.
Today, as you ponder what it is that He isn’t yet telling you, take a few moments to think about the reality that even His absence can be a blessing, if a difficult one, then pray something like this:
Heavenly Father, I’m not sure if I can look forward to the time when You find me ready to walk in the wilderness unable to sense Your presence, but I trust You. I know that You won’t deny me the awareness that You are with me until I am ready to move to the next level in my love for You. Give me such a desire for You that I can one day long for Your absence as much as I do Your presence.
In Jesus’ Name.
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