Hebrews 6:7-8 NKJV
For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
We are having, for our area, a rather long, cold winter. Usually it snows a day or two, the snow melts, the sun comes out, and we begin the pattern again. A number of years ago, there was very little snow, but blistering cold. That winter was miserable and the cold seemed to have no purpose except just to bring misery. This year we are having storm after storm. The snow from the first storm at Christmas is still hidden somewhere under the snow from the storms in January and so forth. I know that this pattern is familiar for some because areas of our country have winters like that all the time. We don’t. And, to be honest, I’m a bit tired of all the snow. I would like a protracted period of sun and, actually, to see the ground again!
All that to say, that rain (snow being frozen rain) can appear as both a blessing and a curse. Rain that comes at the right time and gently enough is a blessing when it waters the plants. But torrential rain that floods can bring great devastation. When the floods come, the ground literally rejects the rain (usually due to saturation) and the excess water has to find somewhere to go, going toward lower ground.
Rain can be like the trials in our lives. Trials are necessary to grow our faith. We don’t want to hear that, but it’s true! Paul writes:
Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. 2 Cor. 8:1-2
The churches in Macedonia were already extremely poor. That poverty in itself was a trial. The Lord brought them into another trial. Paul doesn’t tell us what the trial was, but he describes it as “a great trial of affliction.” For Paul to call any trial “great” tells us that it was indeed great. (Paul wasn’t much for exaggeration.) When we read between the lines, we can see that these churches embraced their trial, rather than rejecting it, for they received God’s grace for the trial and as a result, experienced an abundance of joy. They let the rain of the trial come into their lives, receiving God’s blessing, His grace to do so. And the result was they experienced His other blessing, joy.
We have a choice. We can receive a trial and accept it, trusting God to send His grace, or we can reject the trial. The writer to Hebrews says that, when we do that, the result is thorns and briars in our lives. Isn’t that true? We become angry and bitter. No one wants to be around us because we are either full of self-pity or prickly! The psalmist admonishes:
Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness. Psalm 95:8 NKJ
We are told not to harden our hearts. We harden our own hearts when we get angry. And we get angry at God when we rebel against the trials that He permits. We don’t want the trial, so we reject it, hardening our hearts to His gentle teaching. Hebrews 11 (esp. 35-39) tells us great trials that many suffered. Those who suffered did not even receive the blessings from their trials in this life, preferring rather to receive the blessing of heaven. That may happen to us. While we will always receive God’s grace during a trial, we may not see any other benefit from it until we reach heaven. And that’s okay because heaven is the ultimate blessing!
The apostle Peter writes:
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 1 Peter 4:12-13 NKJ
Trials shouldn’t surprise us, scare us, nor lead us to anger or doubt. Peter, writing, calls certain trials “fiery.” The word means conflagration (a large, disastrous fire) or calamity (major misfortune or loss). In other words, we are to not only expect enormous losses in our lives, but to rejoice in them and be glad with exceeding joy. Wow! I know that my natural tendency is to try to avoid fiery trials whenever possible (and to complain to anyone who will listen). But when I respond like that, I’m learning that I am thwarting God’s will in my life because trials help me be more like the Lord Jesus. When the rain comes, I need to open up my life and welcome it in. Out of the rain grows faith that trusts the Lord in the storm. And for that faith, I can be glad with exceeding joy.