At the highpoint of the storm this week, I went into the house and divested myself of raingear. From where I sat in the dining room, I could see the torrents of water tearing down the hill and overflowing culverts and sandbag water-bars. Roads were closing everywhere due to sides, school was canceled, but somehow the electricity had stayed on (for the moment).
Turning from the window view, an icon of Saint Seraphim of Sarov caught my eye and I remembered that his relics were to be presented for veneration on Sunday for his feast. Having a moment, I pull his life from the bookshelf and turned providentially to this paragraph:
“At the age of 10, he became seriously ill. During the course of his illness, he saw the Mother of God in his sleep, who promised to heal him. Several days later there was a procession through the town with the locally revered miracle-working icon of the Mother of God. Due to bad weather, the procession took an abbreviated route past the house. His mother carried Seraphim outside to venerate the miracle-working icon, and he was healed.”
Truly, “all things work together for those who love God” (Rm. 8:28), even bad weather.
Weather, being a part of creation, is fallen just like me and you. Sometimes it behaves and sometimes it throws a fit and does unexplainable thins. When in a good state, it’s a blessing to everyone, but when dark and cloudy it can do unexpected and lasting damage.
So what do we have to learn from bad weather? Patience: waiting for the electricity to come back on, dealing with the leak in the roof, mud on the floor that the kids tramped in, and the host of other inconveniences. Peace: driving slower to be safe, lighting candles, sitting quietly in the dark with a warm drink, praying with faith and trust for the things we cannot control. Simplicity: wondrously liberated from technology for even a few hours, playing a board game with family or friends, more communication and less entertainment.
But most importantly of all, bad weather reminds us we are not God, and that desiring to impose our will on everything around us, wanting everything to be “the way I want it,” is just goofy. When bad weather takes control, we are reminded (if we want to recognize it) that our plans and assumptions in life are mostly ridiculous when they are not aiming to be God’s plans and His will.
Saint Seraphim tells us,
“If a person is not overly concerned about himself, but focuses on his love for God and for doing virtuous deeds, he knows that God will take care of him, and his hope is true and wise. But if a person places all his hope in his own works, and turns to God in prayer only when unforeseen misfortunes befall him, then his hope is weak and faltering. True hope seeks the one Kingdom of God and is sure that everything necessary for this mortal life will surely be given. The heart cannot have peace until it acquires this hope, for by this hope the heart is pacified and filled with joy.”
And how do we know that we are overly concerned about ourselves?
“Self-reliant men grieve when the error, reproaching and reprimanding themselves for it, they think: “I shall do this and that, the consequences of my downfall will be effaced and all will be well once more.” This is a sure sign that before the downfall they trusted themselves, instead of trusting God. And the more gloomy and disconsolate their grief, the more it shows that they relied too much on themselves and too little on God; and therefore the grief caused by their downfall is not tempered by any comfort. If a man does not rely on himself but puts his trust in God, when he falls he is not greatly surprised and is not overcome with excessive grief, for he knows that it is the result of his own impotence, and, above all, of the weakness of his trust in God. So his downfall increases his distrust of himself and makes him try all the harder to increase and deepen his humble trust in God.”
These are hard words for many of us who trust in ourselves more than we trust in God. But the spiritual science revealed therein is a mystery waiting to be discovered and a cure for every disturbance. The bad weather passes but the storms of life will continue. And in every trial is an opportunity to trust in God and to learn something about ourselves.
“When a man falls into some sin, or when he is afflicted by some ill-fortune, tribulation or sorrow, or a grievous and long-drawn bodily sickness, he must understand that he experiences this in order to acquire self-knowledge.”
So let us learn! What did the bad weather teach us? What specific struggle in life right now is an opportunity to understand ourselves better? What plan do I need to make in order to move away from my weaknesses and closer to my strength? What commitment do I need to make to trust and hope in Christ?
When we learn to love to look deeper inside ourselves, the truth of Christ and in Christ appears, and we experience that “the truth will make you free” (Jn. 8:32).