Have you ever sat in a rainstorm or listened to the rain pounding hard on your roof? Have you ever driven through a rainstorm and felt like buckets were being dumped nonstop and without end?
Years ago, I was driving in Florida on I-75 for about six hours. It was January, and the rain was coming down in buckets. My mother and I were together in the car joking about it being Chinese water torture. The constant volume, the relentless pounding, and the only breaks were the occasional overpasses we drove beneath. Those pauses, though they lasted for the briefest moment each, were welcome relief from that constant noise we were driving in.
Not only was the noise overwhelming, but we could barely see out the windshield. My hands gripped the steering wheel with such force that I was frequently overcome with cramps in my fingers and wrists. Not being able to see out the windshield was terrifying. I had to constantly make sure there were no cars immediately in front of me and I could, truly, only see a few feet at a time. Cars began to pull over on the sides of the highway and take breaks, or give up driving all together, until the rain stopped.
For some reason, we decided not to pull over and stop, but to keep going, cautiously, slowly, and carefully. Thinking back, I think we knew that stopping on the side of the road was probably more dangerous than continuing to drive cautiously. So we journeyed on. Eventually, we made it home, but a trip that should have been a short one turned out to be a very long, very exhausting experience.
It has been many years since that day, and now I’m on a different journey. Rather, my family is on a different journey; and right now, the rain is coming down in buckets. Right now, I can’t see more than a foot or so in front of my face. Right now, the volume is overwhelming and often somewhat painful.
Sometimes challenges come down in raindrops and sometimes they come down in buckets.
Sometimes it’s one car that breaks down, and other times it’s every car that breaks down all at once. Sometimes when every car breaks down you also can’t afford the repairs, so you do it yourself; and sometimes, while doing it yourself, you fracture your back and can’t repair anything. Sometimes at the end of the month, there’s no more grocery money. Sometimes, work is scarce. Sometimes, relationships are fractured. Sometimes, your child is diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening disease.
It is in those times, when you are absolutely at the end of yourself, that hardship begins to shape you. Because sometimes the rain comes down so thick you can’t see two-feet in front of you, and you have to continue onward anyway. Water is powerful, as is hardship. Both have power to define. Both have power to shape.
Consider the Grand Canyon – it wasn’t formed by hammers and chisels. The Grand Canyon was shaped and carved by water. Rushing, moving, powerful water carved its shape, and what a shape it’s been carved into! Consider what we’d all be missing if the Grand Canyon had never been carved into the beauty that it is. Today, its very existence points to a time of tumultuous hardship. And perhaps, some day our lives will also point to a time when God carved us with our hardship – hardship that feels like a never-ending, nonstop, sometimes violent, and often painful pounding, of rain coming down in buckets.
Water can redefine land during heavy rain, as in mudslides. It can re-shape coastlines with erosion. Water changes things, and leaves things cleaner, but also entirely, and profoundly different. A new landscape. A beautiful creation.
We are shaped by our challenging circumstances. As they rush in, fast and powerful, chunks of rocky terrain are knocked off and, if we allow it, carried downstream, far away. We must be carved and shaped by our Creator into something beautiful, and most times he uses our hardships.
The challenge in this time is not merely making it through the storm, but to recognize it for what it is, while in the midst of it. Rather than complaining about the challenge, rejoicing in the shaping of our lives, character, and faith by a loving God.
We always have a choice whether we will continue onward or pull off to the side and stop. When we continue on, it can often be scary. We can’t always see our own feet in front of us. We are forced to trust God. Maybe we think God should stop the storm when we pray, but God doesn’t stop every storm for us, because sometimes he created the storm for us.
Are you going through any trials that God may be using to shape you? Are you more likely to feel destroyed by them or shaped by them? Let me know in the comments.