Many times I have sat on the front porch and watched the clouds below. I have thought of the clouds of discouragement and suffering that temporarily veil the sunlight of God’s love. You may have a cloud hanging over your life. You may be in a hospital bed or you may be suffering discouragement and bereavement.
The Bible has a great deal to say about clouds, for they are symbolic of the spiritual forces that obscure the face of God. The Bible indicates that clouds are given to us for a purpose, that there is glory in the clouds. In Exodus 16:10 we read, “They looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.” Without the clouds there would be no shield from the burning sun. There would be no lavish sunsets; no rain; no light; no beautiful, picturesque landscapes.
Often when we board an airplane, the sky is overcast. But as the plane climbs up through the clouds, we emerge into a sun-drenched world far above the dismal and disappointing things of Earth. If we could only see our clouds from the other side, as we do when flying above them in an airplane, their radiant magnificence would take our breath and our worries away. These same clouds that are hanging low in your life, and look so dark from the underside, would look totally different if you could see them from God’s vantage point.
I want to remind you of some of the clouds that hide from you the beauty of the face of God.
First, there is the cloud of suffering. I received a letter from a woman suffering on a hospital bed in the last stages of cancer. She did not ask that God would relieve her of suffering or raise her up, but only that God’s grace would be sufficient through the trial of suffering.
The Bible teaches that human suffering is an integral part of life. Job said, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Our life has its beginning in suffering. Life’s span is marked by pain and tragedy, and our lives terminate with the enemy called death. The person who expects to escape the pangs of suffering and disappointment simply has no knowledge of the Bible, history or life.
To this dear woman on her hospital bed I would say, “Look toward Heaven, look beyond the clouds, and you will see that the sufferings you are undergoing here are nothing compared to the glory that God has prepared for you there.”
Tell me why the gardener trims and prunes his rosebushes, sometimes cutting away productive branches, and I will tell you why God’s people are afflicted. God’s hand never slips. He never makes a mistake. His every move is for our ultimate good. The knowledge of this caused Paul to sing, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
My beloved suffering saint, everything is under control. His will for you is being wrought in the whirlwind and in the storm, and His blessed presence is in every cloud of distress that crosses your pathway. The Master Gardener is purging your life so that you might bring forth more fruit and more glory to Christ in this world and in the world to come.
Another cloud that obscures the sun and distresses us is the cloud of discouragement. Many of the great Bible heroes became discouraged: Moses in the Sinai desert, Elijah when he heard Jezebel was searching for him to take his life, and David when his son Absalom rebelled against him.
Discouragement often comes when we don’t get our own way or when things don’t work out the way we want them to. The children of Israel thought that because they were God’s children they should be spared adversity and trouble, that Canaan should be captured without a struggle. But this was not God’s plan. It never is. We must be willing to die to self before we can know the real meaning of life. We must often bleed before we can be blessed, and a cross must be endured before the crown is to be worn.
Discouragement is the very opposite of faith. It is Satan’s device to try to thwart the work of God in your life. Discouragement blinds our eyes to the mercy of God and makes us perceive only the unfavorable circumstances.
There is only one way to dispel the blighting cloud of discouragement. If you are counting on your own strength and ingenuity, you are doomed to continued discouragement. But the Bible says, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).
I have never met a person who spent time in daily prayer and in the study of the Word of God and was strong in faith who was ever discouraged for very long.
Third, there is the cloud of disappointment. I received a letter from a 19-year-old girl on the West Coast whose fiancé had just broken off their engagement. Her heart was crushed, and life no longer seemed worth living. I wrote to tell her that it is not always easy to trace God’s designs in our ill-planned hopes and dreams. But rest assured that if we are called according to His purpose, and if we love God, all things do work together for good. Who are we to dictate which way the winds of Providence shall blow, or how the Pilot of life shall maneuver our ship through life’s storms? The psalmist said, “He … guided them by the skillfulness of his hands” (Psalm 78:72).
Yes, clouds will come. They are part of the fabric of life. But by God’s grace we need not be depressed by their presence. Like the misty billows that float above us, they protect us from the brightness of the sun; they reveal the glory of God, and from their lofty height God speaks to us. Like the children of Israel, we are travelers to the Promised Land. As the Israelites traveled through the wilderness, the Bible says, “The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way” (Exodus 13:21).
One of the best ways to get rid of discouragement is to remember that Christ is coming again. The most thrilling, glorious truth in the world is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. When we see pessimism on every side, we should remember the Bible is the only book in the world that accurately predicts the future. The Bible is more current than tomorrow morning’s newspaper! And the Bible says the consummation of all things will be the coming again of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. … I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).
If your life is dark, depressing and gloomy today, Christ can turn your dark clouds inside out. The sunlight of His love can still shine into the darkest part of your life. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
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