Just over a week ago we had a snow storm along the east coast states of the USA, including New Jersey, where I live. The weather reports were forecasting this for at least two days before the storm was due. It’s good to have some advance warning. You can then prepare for the storm. However, my complaint was that we were being warned about this for about every half hour, over and over again. More than that, it was being hyped as the worst snow storm in recorded history in our area. As it turned out, it was one of the biggest snow storm we in New Jersey experienced in recent years. However, depending on exactly where you were and whether or not you had to go out in the snow to get to work, the storm was more along the lines of a major inconvenience than a massive disaster.
Yesterday at church someone asked me if I prayed that God would not let the snow fall on us. My answer was “no”. I said that about ten years ago I decided that there was no point in praying for the kind of weather I or anyone else wanted or didn’t want. I explained that from time to time, in the warmer months, the church I then served as pastor planned a number of Sunday afternoon outdoor events. One of these events was a concert by a local bluegrass band. When the band arrived and people took their places on the lawn outside the church building, it was a beautiful sunny day. Not too hot and not too cold. Just as the weather reports had predicted. However, about half way through the concert some very ominous looking dark clouds appeared overhead, It looked and felt like a big rainstorm was about to start. So I prayed, asking God to prevent this storm from raining on our concert. As it happened, the concert went on as planned, and there was not a drop of rain in our town. I was convinced that my prayer worked. But there was more to it.
The day after the concert, I was telling someone from the church in the town adjacent to ours about what happened. Then that person told me that right around the time our concert was being held, he noticed those ominous clouds that I saw. However, while we didn’t get a drop of rain, they experienced a huge downpour. I was convinced that from then on I should be sure to pray about the weather, because God listened to me.
Now let’s move a year or two into the future. I was now serving as pastor of the church in the town that experienced that downpour, when God said yes to my prayer that it would not rain on our bluegrass concert. Now it was the morning of Memorial Day. I had learned that the Memorial Day parade was the greatest annual event that took place in that town, year after year. I was told that this town’s Memorial Day parade had been conducted every year since it was first organized about 135 years before. It was the longest running Memorial Day parade in the state of New Jersey.
As I left my house it looked like a very good day for a parade. But soon after I arrived at the location where the ceremonies started, it began to look like rain. Ominous dark clouds again. Remembering my successful prayer asking God not to let it rain on our bluegrass concert a few years earlier, I prayed, asking God to assure that the rain would hold off until the parade was over. But this time, just about the time the parade was to begin, it started to rain. The parade organizers got together to decide what to do. It was unanimously decided that we would proceed, rain or no rain. The only changes would be that there would be no stopping along the way for some of the usual ceremonies, and we would march and drive quite a bit faster than usual. The closing ceremonies would be held in the church that I served. And so, spectators with umbrellas over their heads, cheered the fastest moving parade anyone had ever seen. And the closing ceremonies at the church were well attended.
Later that day, I had to admit that my prayer asking God to hold off the rain until the parade was over had not worked. So I asked God why my prayer for good weather on that Memorial Day had not been answered as I had requested. There was no answer specifically concerning the concerning the Memorial Day storm, but over the next few days I discerned what God wanted me to understand. First, God wasn’t going to explain why specific prayers for specific weather events did or did not take place. What I and others needed to understand was that when God created the universe, he created weather, and a system which would determine how, when, and where various kinds of weather would take place. God’s purpose in all this was and is to keep the natural world functioning in such a way that it would support various forms of life, including human life. As long as human beings don’t tamper with this weather system (such as polluting the atmosphere and destroying forests), but adapt to it (for example, don’t build houses too close to the ocean), the world will continue to go around and life will go on.
The end result of my speaking and listening to God resulted in my understanding that there is no need to ask God to prevent troubling weather events from taking place. The weather system God devised at creation, has worked effectively for more millennia than I can imagine. God knows what kinds of weather are needed in this world at any given time or location. Sometimes we will be pleased with what God is doing with the weather (no rain on the bluegrass concert). Some times we won’t (rain on the parade). We just have to have faith that God knows and does what is best. God I good. All the time.
I’ll be honest, despite all that I have just said, I’ve been praying that there will be no more snow in my part of the world for the rest of this winter. That’s what I hope for. But I know that God might or might not answer “yes” to that prayer and might not fulfill that hope. It depends on weather or not what I am hoping and praying for is in accordance with God’s will. Maybe God has another snow storm for us. Maybe not. All I know is that God knows and will do what is best.
At the same time, as I’m writing this blog, it is Ground Hog Day in the USA. It’s the day they have a ceremony in a place called Punxatawn, Pennsylvania, in which they bring a ground hog out of his nest and then watch to see if the groundhog sees his shadom. If he casts a shadow, that means there will be six more weeks of winter. Which could mean one or two more snowstorms. On the other hand, if he doesn’t see his shado, it means that Spring arrive early. That means probably no more snow. Now, I’m not praying about the results of what happens with the ground hog. What I am doing, is saying a prayer of thanks to God, for assuring that, year after year, in this part of the world, Spring eventually arrives.
This doesn’t mean that there is no need to pray about the weather. We need to always be asking God to get us through the various weather related and other storms of life that we all face from time to time. My experience has been that God will answer those prayers in his time and his way. We also always need to offer God our prayers of thanks for the ways he does get us through the storms of life.
Grace and peace, Ray
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Patty Perez and Ray Gough
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A Spiritual Autobiography
How God fulfilled the faith-based hopes
of an ordinary guy from Jersey City