“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
I came across this wonderful quote from children’s author, Vivian Greene, on display in a church member’s home. For in many ways it summarises the Christian’s approach to life, especially when times are tough.
So the apostle James can write “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers and sisters, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends.” (James 1:2 JBP).
In fact this is a general trend in the whole of the New Testament. So the apostle Paul rejoices “This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys—we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles.” (Romans 5:3).
Life is tough – but that is no reason for not enjoying the presence and promises of God. In fact, the very opposite because it is in this present life which God has chosen to inhabit. Above all, this is the message of Christmas.
While I was a vicar in Rochdale I developed a habit of a simple daily journal: so simple, usually just three lines in the days when I used a pen. The first two lines were ten items for prayer: five for our church and our mission and five for me and my concerns.
Then on the third line I would write what I thought that God was saying to me that day. Just pause, think and then write. No great introspection deep into my soul, just what comes from the top of my head. Not that I gave it any special status at the time: just a simple log to be reviewed in the future.
And looking back over the years, I think I often got it right. And the most frequent message which I recorded? “Ross, enjoy me.”
In ministry there are so many opportunities to be earnest, to be pressing on through the rain (just like my run yesterday). “When the road is rough and steep, keep your eyes on Jesus!” For day by day ministry, we need grit, a complete commitment to the course ahead.
But that is only half the story. The main component is that as disciples of Jesus we are living our lives with him. So when Jesus calls his disciples, Mark tells us that “He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” (Mark 3:14f)
Before their commission to preach and deliver, these first disciples (or learners) are given the privilege of just being with Jesus. But as I read in my BRF Guidelines yesterday “much of their time is spent simply walking with him, chatting over meals, getting to know Jesus, observing him, watching him praying and picking up his attitudes and values, like children learning from a parent.”
To say the very least, living with Jesus must have been a hugely enjoyable experience for those disciples. And for us too, as we live our lives with him, our Emmanuel. This has to make all the difference, even in the most testing of situations. No wonder joy is to be the distinctive mark of the Christian, even at the height of the storm.
So no wonder that Paul and Silas, unjustly imprisoned, in the dark of the inner cell of the Philippian gaol, their feet padlocked, their prospects pitiful, start to sing. As Luke records for us: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”
Clearly they knew the secret of how to dance in the rain.