One day I was thinking---what happens to all the birds when there is a stormy rain? Where do they go? Where do they hide? In the branches of trees or some low shrub? In somebody's barn? Most of the time, I do not care for cloudy days---I like the bright sunshine and blue skies. Clouds are like blankets---they come between us and heaven, and it doesn't take many days of rainy weather to dampen my spirit....and I suspect the same applies to you as well. Strangely, the Bible has much to say about clouds. It was a cloud by day that led the Israelites. A cloud came down when the priests dedicated the temple, that they literally could not stand for the Glory of it. A cloud surrounded the mountain where Moses received the ten commandments. As a cloud took Christ away into the heavens, two angels stood by and told his distraught disciples that He would return again in like manner. Why, then, do clouds seem to depress us, when in so many instances He spoke out of the thick darkness and brought with Him a Word that changed so many lives?
"O God, as I gaze upon the canvas of your world---so alive and dimensional...there for me to touch, to feel, to smell and savor through the senses you gave me, how can I doubt your constant involvement in everything around me? I love it when I can just sit and inhale all your goodness that is there. But sometimes, Lord, when problems and situations surround me like thick clouds in the valleys, I feel so imprisoned and afraid. Here I am, but where are You?"
It was through some wonderful experiences that I now have a different way of thinking about clouds and overcast days. I remember when we buried my husband years ago; it rained! What a dismal setting that was! I felt sorry for the many people who came to the cemetery, especially that military honor guard who was not there for any other reason except to do their duty. They were soaked. And after we all went home, the bad weather continued far into the night. Alone in my bedroom, I lay my head on "his" pillow and sniffed the pillowcase for "his" scent, vowing never to throw away anything he ever wore nor change the bedsheets. Then I cried softly to myself. It was a difficult time, and I was going through a tough battle remembering, recalling, and believing all those faithful promises of God. What would lie ahead? How empty I felt. So alone. Early the next morning, the rain had ceased, but clouds were still around as I walked outside by myself to retrieve the newspaper soaking in the wet driveway. Across the street was a pasture and a small farm. It was very dark, but in the eastern sky was a streak of emerging light as the sun struggled to send its rays through the beginning of another day. As I walked along, I was talking to the Lord. Tears formed again, "How can I go on, Lord? It seems like half of me has been ripped out of my body." Just then I heard an incredible sound. It seemed as if a thousand birds were singing as loud as they possibly could. I stopped to listen. "Why had I never heard them before? Then came That Voice from heaven which spoke into my spirit:
"Do you hear the birds singing?" "Yes, Lord, how could I NOT hear them? They are making so much noise they could wake up everyone in the neighborhood!" "Do you know, Mary, that yesterday some of those same birds had mates, but this morning they are not with them, for they have perished. Yet all of them rose this morning with the sun to welcome a new day and to praise Me. And you must do the same..."
I have never forgotten that moment, for it changed my life---and my destiny.
Corrie Ten Boom had always been a favorite of mine. A prolific writer, Corrie wrote many books that told of her experiences with God and the life-changing experience she had in a Nazi prison camp. She and her older sister had been sent there because of their involvement with hiding Jews from the Germans during WWII. They spent their time in that prison camp ministering hope to those Jewish women with a smuggled Bible, the Word of God. But one chapter of her book, TRAMP FOR THE LORD, tells of a day when the clouds around her seemed especially thick and foreboding.
"Morning roll call at Ravensbruck was often the hardest time of the day. By 4:30 AM we had to be standing outside our barracks in the black predawn chill, in blocks of one hundred women, ten wide, ten deep. Roll call sometimes lasted three hours and every day the sun rose a little later and the icy-cold wind blew a little stronger. Standing in the gray of the dawn I would try to repeat, through shivering lips, that verse of scripture which had come to mean so much to me: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or peril, or sword? As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter" (Romans 8:35,36) In all this there was an overwhelming victory through Jesus who had proved His love for me by dying on the cross. "But there came a time when repeating the words did not help. I needed more. 'O God,' I prayed, 'reveal Yourself somehow.' "Then one morning the woman directly in front of me sank to the ground. In a moment a young woman guard was standing over her, a whip in her hand. "Get up,' she screamed in a rage. 'How dare you think you can lie down when everyone else is standing!'. "I could hardly bear to see what was happening in front of me. Surely this is the end of us all, I thought. Then suddenly a skylark started to sing high in the sky. The sweet, pure notes of the bird rose on the still cold air. Every head turned upward, away from the carnage before us, listening to the song of the skylark soaring over the crematorium. The words of the psalmist ran through my mind: "For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is God's mercy toward them that fear Him (Psalms 103:11)". "There in that prison I saw things from God's point of view."
O love of God, how deep and great, Far deeper than man's deepest hate.
"Every morning for the next three weeks, just at the time of roll call, the skylark appeared. In his sweet song I heard the call of God to turn my eyes away from the cruelty of men to the ocean of God's love..."
Corrie was released from that Nazi prison camp at age 52, alone and with nothing. Her older sister Betsie had died a few weeks before, but not without telling Corrie of a dream she had had. After the war, she said, they would do a work together in Holland, helping people recover from the terrible times they had survived. Yet Betsie was not with her now...or was she? From that time on she would spend the rest of her life traveling the world to tell of God's love, into some 60 nations of the world. Though Corrie died in 1983, it was when I went to see the Billy Graham movie of her life, "The Hiding Place" in the 1970s that something happened...God spoke to me; "Mary, this is what I have for you also". I could not understand it at that time, for I was a happily married wife and mother, with no thought of travel as a missionary. But incredibly, when I too reached 52, God called me to my first missionary journey. I remember that moment so well. What would my husband think? Would he approve? Oh yes, indeed! He was such an encourager! It was a short month that I traveled to India. Two years later, I went again. But then Bob got sick...his heart was weak, and he had already had one by-pass surgery. We rushed him to San Antonio to the military hospital for a second by-pass. During those last days, he and I talked at his bedside about the Lord, how much He had done for us both over the years, how glorious it had been. We had shared an incredible life together. He knew he was dying, and I think he also knew some secrets I did not know at the time...for there had been many times my husband had heard the voice of the Lord. That God had been preparing me, just as the geese and wild birds make their short training flights to prepare for the long migration ahead. Today, as I prepare to go overseas once again, I copied two sheets of paper with double columns. They were a list of all the miracles that had happened during my life with Bob. Incredible miracles! We had seen, in the years we were together, the hand of God move in ways that I cannot explain, nor adequately tell about. But it was for a season, and also a reason. Because for the past 18 years, it has become the basis of all I share about wherever I go in this world. So my husband goes with me, in my heart and mind. Nothing, not even death, can separate us from God's love. Beloved, do this for yourself: In the midst of your cloudy day, when all is gloomy and depressing....talk to God. He sees your grieving heart, your confusion, your fears. Made no mistake about it. And if you will listen closely, He will speak to you in a profound way to give you courage when you have none, to instill a word of faith when yours is depleted, to correct your thinking, to show you the plans He has for your life. You are never alone. You are not left to perish in your sea of sorrow. Walk out of the gate in front of you with praise on your lips and a welcome to the new day ahead with a song on your heart and on your lips. Then, out of your prison, you too will see things "from God's point of view".
MARY ELIZABETH ADAMS