The Rainy Day
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
A few weeks ago, I sent out an SOS via FB. I asked for prayers because I was struggling at work. When I say struggling, I mean struggling. It was a very stressful time and lots going on that I could not control. Feeling out of control is never my favorite emotion and, as always, when things began to go south, I despaired. Where was God and why was he not acting on my behalf? He made all these promises in His word about fighting our battles for us. Why did it feel like he had abandoned me? As always, when going through a trying time, I tried to make sense of it. The truth is, though, no matter how much I try to decipher times of suffering, I cannot see the big picture, not like God can. Hence, I am left in the dark searching for a hand to grasp.
As it so happens, though I do not understand all the how’s and why’s of suffering, I do think that through His Word, God showed me something about suffering from a guy with a strange name: King Hezekiah. King Hezekiah was a King of Judah that I came across as I was reading through the Bible. I am reading through the Bible through a one-year plan. It has been fascinating to read the Old Testament and begin to piece together the history of God’s people, and how God is at work in the grand scheme of things.
Currently, I am in 2nd Kings and 2nd Chronicles along with some of the prophets like Isaiah. Most of the Kings do not get much of a mention. Generally, they are a blip and described in one of two ways, either they followed in the way of King David, a king described as a man after God’s own heart, or they do not. Several kings in, I came across King Hezekiah. His father, Ahaz was completely faithless to the Lord and pursued evil. Then, when evil pursued him, rather than turning to the only One who could rescue him, he became even more faithless to God. But Hezekiah, his son, he was the opposite. He cleansed the Temple, his people’s place of worship, restored temple worship, and even got the Israelites back together for the celebration of Passover. Every work that he undertook in the service of God he did with all his heart and the Bible says he prospered. In addition, when the King of Assyria came to attack along with a vast army, he told the people this in 2 Chronicles 32:8:
7 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. 8 With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.”
Pretty impressive resume so far.
But then things change. In fact, times begin to get better. When the Lord delivers Jerusalem from the King of Assyria, many people bring precious things to Hezekiah in celebration of his great victory. In fact, the Bible says, [Hezekiah] was exalted in the sight of all nations from then on. Fast forward to the latter years of his life and Hezekiah becomes sick. He is on the verge of death. During his affliction, he prays to the Lord. God answers him almost immediately, granting him 15 more years of life. He even does a miraculous sign to prove that he is going to heal Hezekiah.
Amazing story, right? Sounds like a guy who has it all together.
Unfortunately, that is not the end of the story. The very next verse after Hezekiah receives his sign, the Bible goes on to say this:
25 But Hezekiah’s heart was proud, and he did not respond to the kindness shown him; therefore, the Lord’s wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem.
Hezekiah had many riches and much honor at the end of his life, but you know what he did not have? He did not have what he needed most, a heart that followed God. He was proud and rich and probably very happy. But what do all those things matter if you do not have the One who gives you all the goods in the first place?
So, as I look at my own time in the valley these last several weeks, I wonder what lessons I can learn from Hezekiah. As I reflected on his story, I recognized something of myself in him. Namely, that I tend to seek God when things are bad, but when they are good I kind of forget about Him. Hezekiah prayed fervently to God when things were at their worst and it occurred to me that I do the same. The challenge is remembering God when things are good. The Israelites are a prime example. Once they were settled in the Land that God had promised them, the Land he gave to them, they forgot about Him. They felt like they were responsible for all the good in their lives. They started to worship other gods and they forgot about the One who had given them all their blessings in the first place.
It is easier for me to seek God when I am at the end of my rope. When life is good and things are cruising in the direction, I want them to be, well, it is then that I might be in more trouble. So, my prayer for myself lately has been that no matter how good life gets, I would not grow apart from God. I would not become prideful and leave behind the One who has never left me behind. May God grant it for Jesus’ sake.