“I struggle to believe that God loves me.”
A dear friend emailed that to me months ago and I’ve carried it around in my heart ever since.
I understand what she means. Those feelings have bombarded me countless times as well. Often on days when despair overwhelms me. Days that begin by struggling to get out of bed, wondering why I should even go on. Days that are fueled only by duty, which is an excruciating way to live.
Those are the days in which I wondered: is there more to life than this? How can I believe God loves me when I’m existing at best and feeling shattered at worst?
I would look around at my friends’ lives and feel cheated. I knew they had their own struggles, but from my perspective, God streamed sunshine over their days while mine were overshadowed by clouds and pouring rain. It was hard to see God’s love in that.
And rain in my life usually came when I least expected it. When it was the most inconvenient. When it was the most painful.
The rain seemed to have no purpose but to bring upheaval and pain.
I struggled to see any good in it. Because in the midst of being shaped, it’s hard to see anything. When I am being pelted by driving rain, everything is clouded and gray. My vision is obscured. All I can think about is finding peace. Being dry. Dancing in the sunshine. And I wonder if I’ll ever get there.
But after the rain has passed, or even when it takes a temporary break, I can look around and see what God has produced through the slashing storm. A dependence on God that is unmistakable. A faith that has been tested. A trust that is unaffected by circumstances. When God shakes what can be shaken, what remains is lasting.
And that is a gift beyond all compare.
Joel 2:23 says, Rejoice in the Lord your God! For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness. (NLT)
When I get a glimpse of God’s perspective, I see my trials very differently. I see what they are producing in me, the ways they are shaping me and how they bring glory to God.
I can be grateful for what God is teaching me about Himself. My faith is often strengthened, my love for God deepened, and my worldly attachments seem less enticing.
And then I can thank God for the storm. I can see that it was brought out of extravagant love. I can see that the rain God sends does indeed demonstrate His faithfulness.
The Bible shows me that rain is a gift from God. Rain yields fruit in our lives. With all sunshine and no rain, we become brittle and dried-up – useful for no one and nothing.
Abundant, life-giving fruit requires rain. DA Carson says, “One of the things held out to grieving or suffering believers is the prospect of being more fruitful than they could have ever imagined.”
So in the pouring rain, when our trials are fiercest, God is demonstrating His love for us most powerfully. When we don’t even feel His presence, but have to rely on His promises, He is doing a deeper work than we could ever imagine.
Suffering changes us like nothing else can. It draws us to God. It makes us more compassionate and understanding and wise. It produces perseverance and teaches us how to really pray. It reframes our perspective.
Those who have suffered deeply know how to comfort others in their grief. They are less likely to draw straight lines between obedience and blessing because they understand there is mystery in suffering, in God, and in life. There are no easy answers with grief, and pretending to have them can seem superficial at best and cruel at worst. God and His ways are inscrutable and often we need to leave it at that without offering trite explanations.
No one can understand or explain another’s suffering. Just as I cannot fully understand or explain my own. I simply must trust that He is using all things for my good. To engage me rather than alienate me. To prosper me, not to harm me. To give me a hope and a future.
Without the Lord, these past 20 years would have made me bitter. Twenty years that have seen the death of my son, a debilitating disease, and a dissolved marriage, among other trials. But these 20 years have brought a closeness to Christ, an unshakeable joy, and a keener awareness of my sin. And because of Jesus, those blessings will ultimately outweigh all the pain.
My life has vacillated between glorious sunshine and terrible downpours. Right now I’m in sunshine, which may last a long time, or may simply be a break before the rain begins again. I do not know.
But I do know that while I love the sunlight, I need the rain because it does the deepest work in my life. I do not wish a pain-free life on anyone that I love. A pain-free life is not a blessing. A pain-free life yields little of lasting value.
The rain God sends does indeed demonstrate His faithfulness.
So I want to tell my dear friend:
“I understand how you feel. These relentless trials may make you feel that God doesn’t care, or doesn’t love you. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Even though God may feel far away, He is nearer now than He has ever been.
He is doing things in your life that will amaze you when you are able to step back and look at them. This torrential downpour in your life is indeed a sign of His love.
The rain God sends does indeed demonstrate His faithfulness to you.”