There’s a fairly popular Christian song by Laura Story called “Blessings.” The chorus goes:
‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?
I hate this song.
I know, I know. It’s a song of comfort for those going through painful seasons. It’s an anchor, a line of hope, during hard times. Plus it’s got a great singable melody. It’s a great song, I know.
Except, for me, it’s not a comfort or a hope. It reminds me of a God like the one in my younger years. That God was so jealous that he wouldn’t allow me to cherish any competing love. He would take away whatever I loved most, he would break me, he would leave me devastated — all so I’d turn to him for solace and love. It was this God who, in the words of one woman, allowed their daughter to die in a house fire to “get their attention.”
Too much of an emphasis on this “mercies in disguise” idea leads people to distrust themselves during times of joy. We must not be seeking him hard enough if we’re feeling content and happy. It makes people desperate to feel “convicted,” a form of spiritual self-flagellation where they need sorrow to know that God is close. In this thinking, too much joy is bad; it leads us away from God. The only way we can be guaranteed to stay near him is if we’re in pain, because then we think about him.
That’s what the words of this song mean to me. So you’ll have to forgive me for hating every note of it.
Of course we can come to know God during dark times, and we need his forgiveness when we’ve done wrong. We need hope, because some of us go through very dark valleys indeed. We need to know that God can bring good out of devastation.
But looking over my life, the times I’ve felt the deepest communion with God have been good.
Eating flower cookies and drinking grape kool-aid during Vacation Bible School at church. Talking about God with my best friend, lying in my uncle’s field and staring at the stars. Casually discussing love, life, and the universe with my mom while we worked in the kitchen. Falling in love with a man who didn’t withdraw his love if I wasn’t living up to standard. Writing, creating, laughing — God is very close during those times.
I’ve had hard times, although nothing to compare with what I’ve seen others endure. And I do see how I grew then, and how God was there. But I don’t look back on those times as blessings. They hurt. I don’t want to go back to them. I don’t want to seek out a God who orchestrates pain and suffering and calls it mercy.
I crave a God who is present during the painful seasons — but who can make himself even closer during times of joy. I want the freedom to love the good in life, without fearing that God will snatch it away from me so I will know him better.
Maybe his blessings come through raindrops, but we can see him in sun as well.