In September of 2010, I was camping with some friends in Arizona. We had just finished hiking through Bronco Canyon, an incredibly difficult but rewarding hike and set up camp near the beautiful Cherry Creek. The night was uncomfortably warm so we decided that we didn’t need to set up our shelters.
At about three in the morning, I felt the first raindrops of what would become a twelve hour torrential downpour.
Allow me to exercise some literary license to paint you a little picture. You know how during the summer your parents would turn on the garden host and spray it in your direction and there would be lots of laughter, good times, and happy music?
Well, the storm was kind of like that. Only instead of a garden hose, imagine the Alaskan pipeline powered by Niagara Falls. And instead of your parents spraying you, it’s the Angel of Death. And instead of happy music playing the background, all you can think of are lines from the mortifying sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
Desperately, we searched for cover—for some meager means of protection from the wrath of heaven. But it was futile. One by one, we painfully understood that there was no escaping our fate. So each of us found a patch of muddy earth, sat down, and prayed for the sweet release of death.
But after the ground was sufficiently saturated with rain and tears, the clouds parted and we were given a second chance at life. The desert sun came out in full force. Each of us climbed onto large boulders in the middle of the creek and sprawled out to dry our clothes and bask in the light of day. Within two hours, everything was warm, dry and the plants were extra green.
Okay, I exercised a bit of hyperbole in telling that story but it really was a twelve hour, torrential downpour and we really were quite miserable. But as I laid on the boulder soaking up the sun, I vividly remember tears springing to my eyes. I started to thank God that I was alive.
You see, the rain had reminded me of a different kind of storm. Four years earlier, I had tried to take my life—and had very nearly succeeded. But as the result of a series of miracles, my life had been spared. And as the sun dried up all of the rain, I realized just how grateful I was for my second chance at life. Life is so incredibly wonderful.
In the months that led up to my suicide attempt, I was constantly thinking about how bad life was. It felt a lot like that twelve hour rainstorm: dark, dreary, miserable, and seemingly endless. But the storm did end and when it did, the subsequent sunlight dried up all the rain.
In saying ‘sunlight’ I mean God.
Because there was a darkness and a pain inside of me that doctors couldn’t heal and medicines couldn’t quite fix—only God could reach it. He didn’t remove the pain of my experience but He soothed it and “alchemized” it for my benefit; He transformed it into something I could use to help myself and others. From where I am today, I can look back on my misery during the twelve hour storm and find life gratitude for life. In a similar and most remarkable way, I can look back at some of my greatest struggles and see how they have been some of my greatest blessings.
In The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis wrote this:
“That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory…What seemed, when they entered it, to be the vale of misery turns out, when they look back, to have been a well; and where present experience saw only salt deserts, memory truthfully records that the pools were full of water.”
If are struggling in the midst of your own torrential downpour, I promise you that the storm will pass. If you keep moving forward, then heaven “will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”