Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers. [Luke 22:31-32 (NLT)]
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33 (NLT)]
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?
And what if trials of this life-
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise? [Laura Story]
One of the benefits of my thrice weekly PT appointments for the last several months has been the time I spend alone in the car with the radio tuned to the Message on SiriusXM. Sometimes I uninhibitedly sing along with the contemporary Christian praise music and other times I quietly ponder the songs’ words. As I listened to Laura Story’s song “Blessings,” I pondered the many storms, tears, disappointment, and sleepless nights that turned out to be God’s “mercies in disguise.”
In 2006, just two years into her marriage, Laura Story nearly lost her husband to a brain tumor. Although he survived, disabilities remained from his surgery and the future once envisioned by the young couple changed significantly. Among other things, instead of being a stay-at-home mother, Story became breadwinner and caregiver. Her song “Blessings” was written as a reminder that God remains faithful even when things don’t turn out the way we envisioned. “Life is filled with things you don’t expect, but the Bible tells us to respond by trusting God and continuing to worship Him,” said the singer/songwriter. “God has grown us up, deepened our faith, our awareness of our great need for Him as a savior, daily.”
We’ve all experienced those unexpected and uninvited changes—the storms of life—that necessitate changing our expectations and revising our concept of normal. One such event happened in my life fourteen years ago. The details are unimportant but, as I listened to Story’s song, I saw how it was, indeed, a blessing in disguise. At the time, I mourned the end of a dream—the loss of what I envisioned in the future for myself and my family. But, as weeks stretched into months and months into years, the old vision was laid to rest. I wasn’t the only one affected and everyone in that storm lost something as it rained down on us. Nevertheless, just as Jesus was with the disciples in the midst of that storm on the Sea of Galilee, He was with me in that storm, and He will be with us in the storms to come.
When Jesus warned Peter that he’d be run through the sifter, He was telling the disciple that he’d be going through an ordeal and put to the test—a test that would separate the grain from the chaff—the good from the bad. For me, those years were a long season of sifting—sorting out priorities, persevering with what seemed like unanswered prayers, dealing with hardened hearts, accepting what I couldn’t change, learning to step back and allow God to do His work, and trusting the future to Him. It actually was a season of sifting for all involved as resentment and bitterness were separated from forgiveness, animosity from love, doubt from faith, weakness from strength, anger from understanding, excuses from accountability, fear from courage, and deceit from truth.
Years later, after plenty of sifting and what Paul would call character strengthening, the storm abated and we finally saw the rainbow at its end. Granted, life is not the same as it was but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t good and probably even better because of that storm.
As it turns out, I now can call one of the darkest times of my life a true blessing and I think the others affected would agree. Of course, the end of one storm doesn’t mean there won’t be others. Nevertheless, we can face them with confidence because, like Laura Story, we’ve learned that the “trials of this life—the rain, the storms, the hardest nights” can be God’s “mercies in disguise.”