The plan was for me to spend the entire day with our Jews for Jesus Israel leadership team. I taught in the morning and we took an easy hike alongside a beautiful country river in the afternoon. About 45 minutes into the hike, we sat down at picnic tables to talk, and to listen to the story of one of our team.
Suddenly the wind began to pick up and dark storm clouds rushed across the sky from the east. Clearly it was time to cut our hike short, so we started back at a much quicker pace. Moments later the rain was falling, gently at first, but quickly becoming a torrential downpour. Within minutes, our fearless Israel director, Dan Sered, had flagged down a man driving a tractor from a nearby kibbutz.
The two women on the team climbed into the covered tractor cab with the driver while the guys piled onto the flat bed he was hauling, only to discover that the vehicle had no mud flaps. Now we were not only getting drenched by rain, we were also being splattered from head to toe with soft, brown mud. But wait, there’s more.
When we reached the road that led back to our vehicles, the driver turned the wrong way. Surely Dalia, our administrative leader and hiking guide, would direct him to turn the tractor around. But instead of turning, he started speeding up, taking us farther and farther from our goal! We were all yelling at him from the flatbed behind the cab, but the tractor engine was so loud that neither he nor the women could hear us. The whole experience seemed surreal.
Finally when he slowed down enough, Dan jumped out, ran up to the driver and got him to stop. Apparently the driver was worried that he wouldn’t be able to drive the tractor across the bridge to the parking lot, so he was taking the long way around. Dan persuaded him that we could just walk across the bridge, so he turned around and began slowly to drive back the way we had come. By now, all of us in the back were soaked to the skin and covered in mud. There was a sense of forlorn resignation as we lumbered back down the road, when suddenly it appeared: the most spectacular rainbow I have ever seen. Its bright colors were so intense, stretching up from the earth to the heavens and curving back down to earth with no fading or break in the bow. All we could do was sit and stare at that rainbow until, at last, our driver stopped the vehicle. We unfolded our wet selves from the back only to realize that our half-hour ride had brought us all of 50 feet closer to the parking lot than we’d been when we first climbed on. I thought to myself, “Well, there has to be some kind of a lesson in all of this.”
I recalled the verse where Yeshua tells us that our heavenly Father “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Ironically, in that context, rain is a blessing. The point is that God’s common grace and mercy is showered on all of humanity, so how much more should we show grace to our enemies as well as to our friends? But for me, this verse took on a new application.
It was not my plan to end my day with the Israel leadership team chilled to the bone, drenched with rain and covered in mud. My thoughts were on the verge of turning from good to evil, and my words to those nearby me from just to unjust. But that rainbow was a symbol, a wake up call for me to respond differently to my circumstances.
“For those who respond to difficult or painful circumstances by asking, ‘Why me?’ I have a different question. ‘Why not you?’”
Jesus taught us that both believers and unbelievers are subjected to the same exigencies of life, whether they be blessings of sunshine and rain, or the more painful circumstances of sickness, loss and death. None of us are exempt. I remember something our founder, Moishe Rosen, used to say: “For those who respond to difficult or painful circumstances by asking, ‘Why me?’ I have a different question. ‘Why not you?’ What makes you so special that you should get a pass from the Almighty when others don’t?” That’s putting it rather bluntly, but you get the point.
Getting caught in the rain that day was merely an inconvenience, the likes of which we all must endure from time to time. Yet the rainbow was a reminder to me that, even in those seasons when the storms of life are far worse, bringing the soaking pain of suffering and loss, we have the manifold promises of God. This brings hope to those of us who are called according to His purpose, trusting Him to work all things together for good (Romans 8:28).
I realized how easily I can blame others for my misfortunes, whether small or great. Frankly, I’d found myself starting to get annoyed with several teammates who, it seemed to me, were responsible for that hapless ride through the rain and mud only to end up practically back where we started. But in the end, would I be justified in my annoyance? I realized I would not.
People get caught in the rain all the time. I seriously doubt that I would have been as struck by the majesty of that rainbow had it not been in such stark contrast to the accompanying circumstances. And now I am so thankful to have had that experience with those leaders, my friends in Jews for Jesus. It is a memory I will treasure.
But back to the context of Matthew 5:45, that we are not only to love our neighbors but also to love and bless our enemies. What does love look and act like when you become annoyed or angry, even with your neighbor—or perhaps worse, when your neighbor becomes an enemy? This happens so often and so easily and so tragically in our lives.
Many people, even believers, allow disappointments and frustrations to spatter mud on their souls and rob them of relationships and even love. I don’t ever want to be that way and I’m sure you don’t, either. The fact is, we all get caught in the rain at times, both literally and metaphorically. Let’s resolve that when we do, we will think and act with grace. Let’s not be easily annoyed or react in anger when plans don’t go our way, or when people disappoint us or don’t behave the way we want them to.
Instead, let’s plan to look up, see the rainbows, remember God’s promises and love the people God has put on our path—people who, on this journey, have become just as muddy and wet as we are. Jesus warned us we’d have trouble and trials in this world, but He also encouraged us with His promise: “be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).