How does God prove his love and goodness to people in times of great sadness?
Here’s how he proved it to me as I was driving to work yesterday morning. It was a somewhat rainy, dreary day. My grandmother had passed away two nights before, and I had spent the previous evening making travel arrangements for the funeral. And so it was that I was thinking somewhat somber thoughts about the brevity of life and the reality of death. My grandfather had died only 5 months earlier. Death had finally come to my world, to my family. I realized that the sadness of death would eventually come to all of us. And I wondered how God could make his love evident in these difficult circumstances. And then I saw the rain. That is, I really saw it for what it was–the self-revelation of God in nature.
Matthew 5:45b says that, out of love, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Paul and Barnabas echo this thought in Acts 14:17 saying that God “did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
The rain is part of God’s General Revelation. That is, God has revealed his glorious, divine nature in the heavens (Ps 19:1) and in the variegated complexities of nature (Rom 1:20). Rain is God’s love and God’s goodness revealed. Throughout Scripture withholding rain is judgment and giving rain is blessing (Deut 11:11–17; 1 Kings 8:35–36, etc.). Let’s not kid ourselves. Rain is needed just as much today as it was back then. No amount of irrigation can overcome a lack of it.
Thus, the correct way to view the rain is opposite to how we normally do. It is not the gray, foreboding, and frowning providence of God that aptly frames a death in the family (funeral scenes in movies notwithstanding). Rightly interpreted, it is just the opposite. It is contrast, a counterpoint to suffering and sadness. The sending of rain is part of God’s providential, loving care of his creation and of me as part of his creation. It’s his goodness and love displayed to all people. How do you interpret the rain?
It was the second stanza of an older hymn which set me on the right path that morning. It framed my grief with hope and helped me to see God’s overarching goodness surrounding these dark circumstances. I hope it will for you as well in days of painful grief. I invite you to come by faith and see with new eyes, to interpret correctly God’s bountiful care in distilled form–the rain.
Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.