Saturday morning I went for an early jog. The first half was uneventful. Then I turned around to head back to my car. About a quarter of the way back, something caught my eye. A lightning strike! Odd. I studied the sky. The strike was straight ahead, north; our storms usually come from the south or west. I heard no thunder. The skies overhead were clear. In the far north they were light to medium gray. I figured the storm was distant and heading away from me. I continued at my usual pace, “extremely slow.”
A few minutes later, I’d forgotten about the weather, but two simultaneous strikes once again caught my attention. I looked again. Was that northern sky getting a tad bit grayer? I picked up my pace to “very slow.” I still had about 2 ½ miles back to my car.
That was when things started to get more interesting. I watched as the sky began to look darker, and a bit strange. I started hearing thunder, each time a little louder. More lightning. I revved up to my top speed, “slow.”
As I huffed and puffed toward my car, the wind picked up and the storm was moving rapidly in my direction. The clouds were black, but it was the leading edge that was so unusual. I don’t remember ever seeing a storm front striated like this one. Thin layers of different shades of white, gray, even blue, were closely followed by some wicked looking clouds that swirled from top to bottom. I made it to my car just fine, then drove the three minutes to my house where I ran in to get my camera.
Storms have long been a metaphor, as in Psalm 77. Here are some excerpts.
I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that God may hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. I will call to mind the deeds of the LORD; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples.
With your strong arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; the very deep trembled.
The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea, your path, through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen.
People experience all sorts of storms.
Some storms approach slowly; we know they are coming. Others are sudden, unexpected. With a quick flash of lightning they are upon us.
God is not always discernible through the whirlwind and lightning. As a matter of fact, I think the opposite is usually true for most people. The psalmist says, “Your footprints were unseen.”
Nothing comforts him. Nothing.
Sometimes that is just the way it is. A storm, with no refuge in sight, and no warm fuzzy presence of God.
What we do know about storms is that sooner or later they pass, or lessen. Eventually, we come out on the other side. We may not come out unscathed, but we do re-emerge.
May your storms be fleeting, and may their damage be slight. And even if you can’t see the footprints of God in the muddy aftermath, may God support you through even the worst of times.