Clouds of Encouragement
When you were a child did you ever lay in the grass, imagining that the clouds were prancing ponies and cotton-tail bunnies? What about now? Do you marvel at the orange cotton balls gracing the sunsets? Here in Japan, cross-cultural work results can be slow. And in our northernmost island, snowy Hokkaido, the constant cloud cover can be depressing.
We had a rough several months recently, with even the few who chose to believe seeming to drop out later. Our closest friends went on furlough, we felt misunderstood by those we trusted, and we as a family began to take our stress out on each other. But the Lord used several tools to bring us back to encouragement again.
One was a halogen camping lamp, shooting light all over our living room on gloomy days. And every time there’s a pocket of blue in the sky, my husband stops everything so I can take a second and enjoy it. Since then I’ve begun to study the sky, looking for a piece of encouragement from the One who made the Heavens.
One thing that amazes me about God is that He makes things beautiful even if no one sees them. And sometimes, walking through the quiet forest near my house, I realize that I may be the only person who ever enjoys a particular piece of beauty. Did He make it just for me? I don’t know the theology behind the answer to that question, but I wouldn’t put it past the God that I know to reach down and encourage a global worker by painting a picture for her on a leaf or on a sky.
Especially last summer during typhoon season; the clouds moved so quickly that we had several Cistine Chapel scenes in a single day. It made me realize that a pink sweep of God’s brush, a ray of sunlight piercing through a cloud sandwich, all these could be Heavenly messages to me to keep on keeping on, to not loose heart in doing good. Even on an overcast day we can remember God’s faithfulness and dependability; just as the white sky is the same all the way across, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And remember the sun is always shining brightly above the clouds, whether we can see it or not!
This morning as I read in James 1, I realized that in verse 16 when James says “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren,” the context reveals this: I should not be deceived about God’s character; He never changes. And back in verse 13 here was God’s message to me: “Don’t say, ‘I’m bitter because of this trial God gave me.’ Trust that His strength is enough, and receive the crown of life!”
I recently met a single lady global worker who had served in refugee camps in many diverse countries. Despite her circumstances that to me seemed insurmountable, her soothing voice ended every story with, “But you know, God has just been so good to me. Let me tell you about it…” It was humbling as God reminded me that it’s a matter of perspective.
As a retired global worker couple passed through here last week, I asked them what to do when the results are slow. They encouraged me to find hope in the little things: a glimmer of interest in someone or a prayer answered. (Or even a cloud?) They have so exemplified selflessness in their own lives; may I at least partially follow in their footsteps.
You have clouds in your part of the world, too, right? Does the Lord send you mile-high renditions of cotton candy? Can even smog be pretty? Let’s recognize cloud formations as our own personal Monets; our own Rembrandts supernaturally delivered to our doorsteps, wherever that may be in the world.