Few repeat offenders are as persistent as bad weather. That’s easy to say during the week in which Hurricane Sandy rocked the East Coast, but our society consistently laments the weather in our common parlance (“rain on your parade”), children’s lore (“Rain, rain go away”), pop culture (The Perfect Storm, Castaway), and even stories from the Bible (Noah!). Yet, is there some good that comes of this bad weather, even bad weather like Sandy?
Indeed, it is hard to imagine where we would be without rainy days. Our plants obviously would be browner and our streams drier. But beyond the physical impact, our very capacity to value sunny days would be smaller. Since I moved north from Florida, where I weathered a number of hurricanes but much more sun, my appreciation of sunny days has grown in direct proportion to my exposure to rainy days. If it weren’t for rainy days, I, at least, would not appreciate as thoroughly the beauty of creation.
This insight extends to the rainy days of life, as well. Whether we face daily difficulties, relationship problems, chronic illnesses, or the approach of death, our hardships may increase our capacity to enjoy the blessings of good days—and bad ones. Many of the great achievements of our human experience are savored precisely because of the difficulties en route. To name relatively recent examples, the Moon, Mount Everest, and the Four-Minute Mile were only reached after great sacrifice.
From a spiritual perspective, the analogies are readily apparent. Were it not for trials and tribulations, we would not have God’s covenant with Noah, the lessons of Job, Paul’s letters from prison, or, most importantly, the saving work of Jesus Himself. These are not merely analogies. The hardship, or sacrifice, made all the difference.
The interesting question is not whether there is a silver lining in a dark cloud. It’s what we do differently as a result. Do we in fact do anything differently as a result?
The Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, seemed to think that our outlook does make a difference in our outcomes. In his nineteenth century poem, The Wreck of the Deutschland, Hopkins recounted a news story of a crew and passengers, including nuns, who perished aboard a sinking ship in a terrible storm. One of the nuns resolutely cried out “Christ, Christ, come quickly!” whereas others on board could think and yell no more than “we are perishing.” Among these latter were the sailors who died faster scrambling to save themselves and their passengers. Hopkins did not mean that trying to save oneself or others is futile, but rather, saving takes many forms, some longer term than others.
As the East Coast picks up the pieces after Sandy—the damage, many rescue efforts, and even deaths—we would be wise to remember that our rainiest days can nevertheless be one of our greatest blessings.