Clouds are fascinating from a distance. However, when we see them close at hand, as when we fly through them in airplanes or they hang low in the early morning, they are an unwanted obstruction.
We have similar feelings about circumstances that we often refer to as clouds in our lives. We can see how clouds of disappointment, ill health, or grief benefit other people. We understand how these situations can teach dependence on God, how clouds can lead the sufferer to a life of prayer, how they strengthen the believer’s faith. However, when these same conditions befall us, we find it difficult to appreciate their contribution to our spiritual walk. They’re too close for our comfort.
In the "Lifescape"
Clouds are a part of the Christian’s journey, and God intends for us to profit from them. Whether or not we understand the reasons clearly, we can be sure that in them, as in all other situations, “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). *
Men and women are called to the ministry of Sabbath School secretary. Thus they will have their share of days when plans flow smoothly and they seem to be soaring through a clear blue sky. Then there are those days. Obstacles line the path like a range of clouds. On cloudy days there are three truths to consider:
1. God controls the clouds.
Clouds serve the residents of earth in different ways. Some spread themselves across the sky to shade us from the scorching heat of the sun. Some drop rain to keep the earth moist. Others produce heavy thunderstorms. It takes a wise God to select the most appropriate cloud for the most appropriate time and place, considering that some people pray for sunshine on the same day that others pray for rain. Sometimes we sound like Job: “Do you know how God controls the clouds?” (Job 37:15).
In ministry God knows how to use clouds. Clouds of disagreement can teach tolerance to the teachable. Clouds of noncooperation can improve the facilitation skills of the teachable. Clouds of human disapproval can lead the teachable to focus on the objective of service for Him.
Job says that God sets limits on the objects in nature (Job 38:10). He controls their purpose and duration. Clouds can develop character and strengthen ministry.
2. Clouds regulate movement.
During the journey of the Israelites from slavery to freedom God used a cloud to regulate their speed of travel. No matter how eager they may have been to proceed, God directed them to halt occasionally:
“Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped” (Num. 9:17).
There are times when we need to recognize God’s call to rest. When clouds of trouble and despair sit over us, they may present an opportunity for reflection and introspection. Instead of murmuring or throwing temper tantrums we can rest within His plan for us by taking advantage of the time to measure our growth and to pray for strength to move on when the clouds that have been part of His plan are lifted.
3. Clouds illuminate rainbows.
I believe that God did not want the clouds to be a reminder of the disaster that the earth had suffered in the Flood. So He placed in the clouds a symbol of His protection from similar catastrophe and promised: “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Gen. 9:13). A rainbow in the clouds is evidence that God can create a beautiful ending to an ugly situation. Despite multiple obstacles He gives success. Despite a lack of cooperation He arranges surprising turns of events. He can use the struggles and disappointments to bring about victories.
Sabbath School secretaries must train themselves to look for triumph within the trials, to search for rainbows in the clouds.
* All Scripture quotations in this article are from the New International version.
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists