A Cloud of Goodness

“In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33b NIV

The brightness of the sun was almost blinding. Its beams brought heaven to earth as I lifted my head and closed my eyes. Silence surrounded me, and I let myself enjoy this rare opportunity of tranquility. Unfortunately, it didn’t last.

Out of nowhere dark clouds moved in from the left and the right, the blue sky vanishing in an instant, darkening not only the sky but my mood. It was as if the sun from a moment ago was just a tease. I frowned and prayed, asking God to bring back the warm sunshine. I still needed it. He spoke to my spirit, what I have to admit, I didn’t really like His reply.

He said, “Sometimes we need the rain.”

I pondered this, not at all what I expected. “Sometimes we need the rain.” Things of the earth popped into my head. Flowers, grass, animals, people, me. Where would we be without rain? First Kings tells us of a drought that lasted for three years, causing a severe famine in the land. The day Elijah sent his servant to look for a sign of rain and he saw the small cloud that was the size of a man’s hand, was a day of rejoicing for the people. They knew the cloud was a sign of the beginning of the end of their trouble.  Then I understood what God meant. As much as I loved the feel of the warm sun on my face, too much of it can be dangerous. While I wished for the sun to return, I thanked God for sending the rain.

Does It Matter What We Think? My first instinct when the cloud covered the sun was to whine and complain. In fact, I think my prayer came out more like a complaint. And it hadn’t even started to rain!

At the first sign of trouble, what is your instinct? Do you whine or complain (even to yourself) like I did if something doesn’t go exactly the way you planned? In the verse above, Jesus promised us we would face trials in our lives. The clouds will come. But do you want to know the great part? Just before He spoke these words, He said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace.” (John 16:33a NIV) Peace during the storm. Rest during the unrest.

The clouds come to bring rain, something the earth needs to survive. We may not always know why trials come in our lives, but we can rest assure God does know, and He has a reason for them. Believe it or not, they will bring something good to come to pass in your life. The next time a cloud covers your sun, think about the drought and thank God for the rain.

Squashed Like a Bug

Weary. That’s what I was. Have you ever felt weary? I was weary from fighting in the same battle over and over, winning a small victory only to find myself defeated a minute later. The battles would conclude at the end of each day, but the war raged on the instant I’d open my eyes in the morning.

You might be wondering what I’m talking about. A battle? War? What battle? It’s a battle we all must face, unfortunately. However, maybe you don’t even realize you’re in the same battle as I am, fighting right alongside each other. The battle is in our minds. In simple terms, what are you thinking? Are you leaving the door open to wrong thoughts? What are you allowing to pass over the threshold into the open door of your mind?

Paul warns in Ephesians 4:27 (Amplified), “And do not give the devil an opportunity [to lead you into sin by holding a grudge, or nurturing anger, or harboring resentment, or cultivating bitterness].” How do we give the devil an opportunity? By entertaining wrong thinking. By allowing ourselves to focus just a second too long on the feelings of jealousy over someone else, or the feelings of rejection and anger when we don’t feel loved like we think we should. If we’re not careful, before we know it we’ve given the devil a real foothold in our minds, and this is the worst place to allow him. Once he has us feeling sorry for ourselves, or entitled to receive something, it’s hard to break the cycle because it feels good to our flesh.

Like I said, I was tired. I kept letting myself think a second (or a minute) too long on a very familiar, yet toxic thought and before I know it I’d welcomed back those yucky feelings. But no more. I was on a run one morning, and those same nasty thoughts knocked on the door again. That time, however, I didn’t answer—regardless of the heavy breathing and sweat oozing through my pores. Nothing could stop me from entering into battle. And this time, I possessed the confidence to win because I reminded myself how the war ends.

The Bible tells us in the book of Revelation what happens to Satan at the end. He will be, “Cast into the lake of fire and brimstone…tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Rev. 20:10) Why did I keep allowing him win the battles when I knew his destiny? Because he fights dirty.

Does It Matter What We Think? So, what happened on that run that changed me? How was I able to start winning the battles? I consciously changed my thinking. It started with a picture. Often God does this, He allows me to see in my mind a picture that can help or teach me or someone else. This particular picture was of a small bug. One of those ugly bugs with a hard, crunchy shell. I saw myself squashing the bug with my foot. Smash! One stomp and that bug was history. Then I saw people dancing together, crushing the bug into the ground.

The bug was Satan—the devil himself. The people dancing were the saints, or people who love God. God was showing me that I had the power to crush the enemy under my feet, and so do you. It was the easiest thing in the world! All we need to do is say, “NO!” to those negative thoughts, and instead allow ourselves to think thoughts that contradict them. Then we’ve won! And what a sweet victory it is.

A Prison of Victory

“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs…” Philippians 1:27

Picture this: Scars cover your entire body, constant reminders of your dedication and devotion. The air holds such a stench that you can taste the mildew, stale waste, and odor of weeks without a shower. The verbal insults hurled at you hourly try to strip you of any dignity you have left. You haven’t been outside in, hmm, you can’t remember, but you know it’s been just as long since you’ve had a good meal and a nice, hot shower.

How would you be feeling? Better yet, what thoughts would be racing through your mind each day? Would you be planning revenge on those who caused you pain? Maybe you’d feel like giving up, a “what’s the use of living, anyways,” attitude. Or maybe, you’d be on your knees praying for those whom you love, turning the focus off of you and onto others. Wait, what? You might be asking, “How can you expect me to expend the energy on others when I’m barely surviving, here?” Am I right?

Because that’s exactly what Paul did. Even from jail, Paul’s heart was for the saints, his brothers and sisters in Christ. Because of the help from the Holy Spirit, He was able to turn his focus away from his own hardship and to helping his friends who were struggling with issues of their own. “Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” And not to be afraid of their adversaries. He told them he prayed for them to, “be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.” (Phil. 1:27, 1:10) I believe letters like this one kept him going each day. He wasn’t consumed with his circumstances, but on how he could help his friends.

Blog prison credit to Denny Müller

Does It Matter What We Think? What better model for us to follow than the lives of Jesus and His disciples? While you might not currently be in Paul’s predicament, are you in a spiritual prison? Does it feel like the walls are closing in around you with no way out? You are NOT alone. God is with you, just like He was with Paul. He will help you.

How? We can start by praying a prayer of thankfulness to God every time we think of our brothers and sisters, “making request for (them) all with joy.” (Philippians 1:4)

What else? When we are tempted to fold our minds in on ourselves, ask God to put one person on your heart. Then reach out. Encourage them through a text or phone call, letting them know you think about them and pray for them.  It is only when we turn our eyes away from ourselves that we can truly have the victory. Remember, if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)