The Nature of God When the Sun Goes Out and the Rain Comes Down
Within a short span, we went from sharing photos of uncanny eclipse shadows to videos of hungry floodwaters rising.
America stood still while time turned in on itself and twilight became midday, calling out confused crickets while the sun went out and summer heat cooled. We haven’t found a way to control the moon. It’s not customizable. There’s no “cue eclipse” app for homo sapiens to adjust the lighting for planet earth. Vikings, the plague, the age of exploration, steam engines, automobiles, space travel – it doesn’t matter. Before germs squirmed under a microscope, humans stood in awe. After carrying pocket-sized computer phones, humans stand in awe.
The deafening roar of world events quieted. Frantic efforts at viral marketing campaigns stilled. The grinding push of the mundane halted. We stood and we marveled.
Shortly after, a hurricane showed up on meteorologist maps. It slowed in the Gulf of Mexico. There are so many false alarms, and it appeared to weaken. Then Hurricane Harvey got a second wind. Suddenly bumping up in power and severity, it charged towards land, shearing roofs, throwing trees, and dumping unimaginable amounts of rain.
The marveling delight we took in watching, childlike, as the moon marched triumphantly in front of the sun, turned to marveling dismay. We marveled, but the joy shifted to heartbreak. The familiar became strange. While we trust the sun to burn, cloud cover or not, midday, we found it darkening. While we assume we walk through front doorways, stepping over the threshold, we found a grandma leaving her house through the front door on the back of a jet ski, couch floating nearby. We assume crickets chirp in the evening and furniture stays where we put it. Sometimes our assumptions are blocked out, bringing shadow. Sometimes our assumptions are lifted up, flipped over, and sent down the river that used to be a freeway.
“Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
James 1:17 reminds us of this: the sun can go out; the winds can topple towers; the floodwaters can transform landscapes, but there is no variation or shadow resulting from change in the nature of God, the Father of lights. Within the Triune nature of God, there is love, giving and receiving. But even if the crickets come at noon, even if the couch floats out the front door, even if the roads become rivers, the good nature of God doesn’t change. It is more reliable than the movements of the heavens and more reliable than the infrastructure that keeps water in the faucets and power in the outlets. And every good thing – awe at natural beauty, gratitude for good weather, bountiful harvest, redemptive stories of kindness and hope – every complete gift, every generous act of giving, is from above.
The assurance that God remains reliable, dependable, and good is not a flip, trite coffee mug assurance. It is weather-beaten and muscle-weary. The assurance that even nature may change but that God doesn’t change is a rebellious stand against ideas of gods who are fickle, moody and egocentric. The idea that nature doesn’t contain or limit the Divine is revolutionary.
Up may become down, day may become night, land may become sea, and it doesn’t change the timeless nature of God. The solar system can reel and God remains the Good Shepherd who puts everything on hold to seek out one lost sheep. The path of totality may march across the land and God remains the woman who loses a coin, lights a lamp, sweeps the entire house, and calls her neighbors to celebrate when it is found. The earth groans and Jesus looks up and sees Zacchaeus taking refuge in a tree above the swirling tide of people below. Creation creaks out labor pains while friends dig frantically through a roof to lower their ailing friend to Jesus who is teaching in a house when broken humanity comes down from above into his view.
Do you see? You don’t need eclipse glasses or news footage from an affiliate station helicopter to see. God sees. God doesn’t change with the flood levels.
Everything else is up for grabs, but not the nature of God.
Is your heart weary? Are your arms heavy? Have you fought tough battles? Do you feel like your body has betrayed you? Are you lamenting the loss of relationships that were supposed to last and didn’t?
Come, friend. Come, all who labor. Come, all who are weary. God will give you rest. And God will not rest until you have been found. Nothing can dim that or wash it away.
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
© 1923. Ren. 1951 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188
Feature image by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash