It's been a stormy January here in Georgia. No snow storms - I've pretty much relinquished any snow hopes I have for this winter - but plenty of thunderstorms, even tornado watches which really aren't the norm for January weather, at all. We have a great vantage point here where we live literally on the point. The sky can be seen for a full 360*, and most often (though not today) the storms roll in on us from the north, which means they tumble and grumble from far over the water, building a spectacular show for us to enjoy. I love it. I love storm watching, even when we were in the midst of a hurricane, I could hardly stand to step away from the windows for fear I would miss something spectacular, something that can only be seen in the storm. I'm not actually afraid of storms. I respect their power. I am fully aware that they have the potential to cause great harm, even death. But I cannot control a storm. The only thing I can do is watch its progress, act wisely if necessary, and enjoy the incredible beauty that is only found in the heart of a storm.
My husband brought home an article for me to read today that Mark Batterson wrote in conjunction with his new book, Circle Maker (it's pretty phenomenal. I'm about a quarter of the way through it). In it he ponders the wisdom of praying things away; as in, "Lord take this ____insert crisis___ away from me." Now I don't think there is anything wrong with that kind of prayer. Christ didn't either obviously since he spent the last night of his life here praying it. However, and this is the point Batterson gets to, what if God's glory is bigger in the suffering than it is in the removing? It was in the case of Jesus' Gethsemane prayer (a fact for which I will never have the words to express the depth of my gratitude.). Certainly God could, Jesus Himself could have stopped the coming storm. But what of we who so desperately needed His rescue? We all know the answer.
It's likely that God's vision for us, for me, isn't the salvation and redemption of the entire universe, but what if what He has for us is more beautiful in the process than in the deliverance? I still, all these years later, am convinced that I have been miraculously healed of cancer, but not before I underwent my full regimen of chemotherapy and radiation. And what I speak of when I speak of that time is the incredible gift, the amazing miraculous depth and breadth of the gift that the experience was, and the gifts it still continues to deliver. Yes, absolutely God could have stopped that storm. He could have put me in the closet and covered me with His hand and said, "PEACE! BE STILL!" But instead He called me out into that storm and said, "Come walk with me, my child, and do not be afraid. Peace, be still, dear heart." Those spectacular moments that can only be seen when you stand in the middle of the storm are not just found in the storms of nature, but in the storms of the soul.
One of my very favorite stories in the Old Testament is found in Daniel. We all know the story of the fiery furnace. It is truly amazing. But the rescue is not my favorite part. No, my favorite part comes before the rescue when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego look Nebuchadnezzar in the face and say, "Oh yes, our God is indeed able to save us, of that we have no doubt, BUT EVEN IF HE DOESN'T we still will praise Him."
God is not obligated to save us. He doesn't love us less when the storm rages. In fact, I argue that those storms allow us to love Him more, and that is why He sometimes says no. Not as punishment, not out of indifference, not because He is cruel. Because He loves.
Like a hurricane.
And I can tell you from experience, that the beauty of a hurricane can only be examined inside the storm itself.