One of the joys of living here in this culture in Florida is that we have the opportunity to interact on almost a daily basis with our neighbors. Not that we didn’t do that in other places, but here we regularly talk with and interact with our neighbors in the conversations which arise out of just daily life and living.
Because almost every one of us do not have family locally, we tend to socialize a lot more with each other, celebrate holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries together rather than alone, as well as play and enjoy life together as a group.
For example, once we arrived in Florida, we discovered that our neighborhood had very little of a social interaction with one another. So we organized our neighbors into a group of golf-playing fanatics.
We started by getting our neighbors together to play golf once a week. At the current time, without our initiation, our neighbors get together two or three other times a week. and when those times are not possible, they look for other times when they can indeed get together and play.
One of those times happened just a few days ago. The couple who live across the street had just returned from a week’s vacation, and had not played golf for a while. And looking at our schedule we realize that we could not play at the normal times with them, so we asked if they would like to go out one evening to play golf.
They accepted and we made the arrangements to go. However, at the appointed time, the skies were not only cloudy but they were “shedding tears”. It was sprinkling. We debated whether or not to go play golf at all but there was one small clear spot in the sky overhead. I suggested we aim for that spot and go find a golf course there to play.
Yes, I know, it sounds strange, but here, one can drive in just about any direction and within a short distance arrive at a golf course! We arrived at the designated course and it was not raining when we got there. The skies all around looked like a storm was brewing. but since there was no rain at the moment we decided to go ahead and begin to play.
Like clockwork, with each passing hole on the course, the sky all around us looked dark and threatening. But no rain came. We were able to finish playing the nine holes without getting wet.
In a very real sense, this experience is a parable of life.
How many times have you and I look at a situation and said there is no way this will work? How many times have the “skies” around us looked so threatening that there seemed no way for success in our endeavor?
And how many times have we changed our plans or scrapped our plans because the possibility of success seemed slim to none? And, yes, how often have we perhaps missed the blessing of God because we did such things?
Along the same lines, in my reading through the Bible, I recently came to the book of 2 Corinthians in the New Testament.
Over the several days, it took me to read through these 13 chapters which comprise the closest thing we have to an autobiography of the Apostle Paul, I began to underline several phrases that seemed to jump out of the pages at me as I read –phrases like: …all our troubles…great distress…anguish of heart…many tears…grieved…distressed… no peace of mind…hardships… great pressure beyond our ability to endure it… despairing even of life… not equal to the task… hard-pressed on every side…downcast… beaten… flogged… shipwrecked…sorrowful…poor… sleepless nights… and on and on.
But the overall tone of this letter is not one of defeat or self-pity. Paul is not sobbing here, “Woe is me!”
Rather, as if shouting from the highest mountain peak, he proclaims, “Praise the Lord!” Over and over again here, he says, “God is a God of comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we have been comforted” (See 2 Corinthians 1:4).
In effect, he is expressing what I call, “The Parable of the Rain”.
It may be raining all around us. We may even be getting wet from that rain. But God is using that rain, that affliction, that sorrow, that persecution, not only to water the crops in the fields around us, but also in a positive way in our lives.
I suspect that, as you read these words, many of you may be a bit skeptical of anyone who talks about playing golf with neighbors as an almost daily activity, much less as a trial of life, but may I say this: Throughout my life and ministry, my bride and I have gone through situations that, by any stretch of the imagination, would be classified as “stretching, growing, or just plain difficult”.
We have suffered hardship, storms, and trials of many kinds – many of which have been self-inflicted wounds. But through it all, God has shown us that He is faithful, and will continue to be there if we will only trust Him.
Yes, there may be rainfall all around us, perhaps even a lightning strike or two, but He is indeed faithful, and, if we let Him, will show us not only the light at the end of the tunnel but the victory as well!
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.