“Folks, it’s raining outside.”
That was the sudden PA announcement inside the windowless Oklahoma State Fair Arena. I was in Oklahoma City visiting family at the Range Round-up, a statewide ranch rodeo.
It struck me that you would never hear that in Dallas. You wouldn’t expect the announcer at a Mavericks game to report on a simple rain shower. And if he did, you certainly wouldn’t expect what happened next: the crowd responded with the loudest cheer of the night.
However, on that day, and in that place, it made perfect sense. The entire state had been in a severe drought all summer long. At a ranch rodeo—a team competition between different ranches—most of the crowd was involved in agriculture in some way. For farmers and ranchers, a drought doesn’t simply mean that you have to water the lawn more often. It means that your crops don’t grow, and your cattle don’t have grass to eat or water to drink. It affects your income, sometimes meaning that you don’t have any income that entire year. For such a crowd, an August rainstorm was really, really good news.
It isn’t always that way. Popular culture seems to portray farmers as constantly praying for rain. Having grown up on a farm/ranch, though, I remember there being many more times when we prayed it would not rain. Having too much rain, or rain at the wrong time, can be just as damaging as not having rain at all. Rain during harvest means you can’t bring in the crops. Rain during planting season means you can’t even get the seeds in the ground. Too much rain at any one time, and it all gets washed away in a flood. There have been years when the announcement of rain at that rodeo would have brought groans.
Same rain. Same crowd. Vastly different results.
This applies not only to rain, but to a large number of things in life. Some things that are good at the right time and place can be extremely bad in the wrong situations. Sex would be one example, when you consider its purpose in marriage compared to how it is often misused. Sugar could even qualify: bad if that is all you eat, but a great treat if it is kept somewhat rare.
The same thing can cause either life or death, joy or sadness, depending on the timing.
Here’s a thought: what if the droughts are necessary? It is the classic question of why God allows bad things to happen. It’s been said that evil is not a thing in itself; it is merely the absence of good. But if everything was always good, then we wouldn’t consider it “good” at all; it would simply “be.” Without the occasional dry spell, would we ever find joy in rain?
Honestly, this all comes up because recently I have felt like I am in a pretty severe drought. I’ve been shaken out of contentment, reminded that there are good things, things that God even says are good, that haven’t been falling in my life. God is in control; why has He withheld rain?
And here is the only answer I can come up with: I don’t know. There is no way for me to know how life might have been different, or to say it would be better or worse. I can’t see the future, or see what God has in store.
But I have seen how rain is often not the blessing we had hoped for. And how waiting for something can greatly increase the joy of receiving it. And how He does, indeed, make what seems to be bad turn out for good in the end.
And so I trust, or strive to trust, in God’s timing. To believe more fully in His goodness. To remember that I am often not a good judge of what will make me happy. And to realize that nothing outside of Him will truly satisfy anyway.
I trust, and I wait. But I’m still praying for rain.