Put yourself in Noah’s sandals for a moment. God tells him to build an ark because of the judgment about to fall on humanity’s sin. In faith he builds it and then God tells him to get ready for the animals he’s going to bring to him 2x2, to fill it. Finally he tells him to get his family on board because earth’s plugs are going to be pulled and the previously stopped floodwaters are going to rise accompanied by forty days and nights of rain.
In the early hours the sound of rain hitting the roof can be soothing, even hypnotic in its rhythmic pitterpatter, but imagine the sound after forty days and nights. There is a scene in the TV series “The Pacific” documenting the struggles of WW II American Marines in Guam who struggled to maintain their sanity in the incessant rain.
For Noah, finally the rain stops but that’s not the end. Now begins the exercise in patience waiting for the floodwaters to subside enough to think about disembarking the good ship “Redemption.” We see Noah testing the waters with a raven and then a dove, anxious for any sign that there might be dry ground and a chance to get out of the floating zoo. I’m pretty sure my patience would have been exhausted long before Noah’s. Yet out of that exercise came new life, salvation, and a new beginning for Noah and Noah and his family, all of creation, and through them to us.
In seasons of darkness it is hard to be patient, maybe even more so to trust that God is at work. We have been through a challenging eight months at Grace. Beginning with the roof construction, followed by the flood which turned a 4-6 week project into a 7-8 month journey into the unknown where patience has been taxed and finances have drained.. Along the way we have faced the sudden and unexpected loss of Troy, accompanied by the equally difficult and ongoing recovery of Danica from her injuries. While our sea of uncertainty due to our building was disconcerting it was nothing compared to the ocean of uncertainty Cheryl and Miranda have faced.
Yet as we continue to pray for God to do what only He can in Danica’s recovery and in sustaining Cheryl and Miranda WE BELIEVE that God is at work and that one day we, with them, will step from the shadow of the tomb into the bright illumination of what God has been doing. We have hope, even in the rainy season, because we believe God loves us too much to waste our pain or our rain.
I finished reading “From Boxers to Bandits” earlier this summer, a book about the pioneering missionary service of Jimmy and Sophie Graham in China from 1880-1940. Their story is one of perseverance as they shared the gospel in the face of great opposition, physical persecution, insurmountable obstacles, and serving in a time that was marked by advances in theological liberalism in the West, the Boxer Rebellion, roaming bands of ruthless bandits, and the communist uprising which expelled all foreign missionaries from the country. The Grahams left China having spent their adult lives serving there, sailing away into what must have seemed like the darkest of nights leaving their investment in the hostile hands of the communists. Yet this is the author’s summary of what happened:
“For over forty years after the Grahams left, China was closed to Western missionaries, but as author John Piper put it, ‘This is not because Jesus fell into a tomb. He stepped in. And when it was sealed over, he saved fifty million Chinese from the inside – without Western missionaries. And when it was time, He pushed the stone away so we could see what He had done. When it looks like He is buried for good, Jesus is doing something awesome in the dark.’ ”
As we depart from the “ark” on to dry ground to begin a new season of ministry may we look with faith and hope to what our Saviour has been doing in secret and desiring simply to join Him, in the words of William Carey “expecting great things from God.” May this new season of ministry inspire us all!