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Both Sides Now..and Always

"I've looked at clouds from both sides now"....The familiar strains of Joni Mitchell's famous song filter through my mind, bringing back the vague and dreamy phases of my youthful wonderings, pain and struggle. The 60s and 70s brought a refreshing honesty to sad and reflective love songs. Now as I approach my own personal sixties I struggle with the spiritual realities of "clouds" all the time.

There are lots of human truths in her song, but it has always bothered me because it doesn't seem to give much hope. It doesn't give a way through the experience of clouds, except to adopt an "older but wiser" attitude to stuff. That's fine as far as it goes, but it can leave us feeling sad and empty, robbed somehow of the deeper joys of living, and the rewards of facing pain and struggling with it to receive the joy after the tears.

More than that, for those of us who know the reality of living with Jesus Christ within our beings, it can never be enough. Our knowledge of truth goes way beyond it. As well we know the dimension of spiritual warfare, and the continuous assault on our hearts, minds, relationships and circumstances by the adversary of our souls. The three main weapons he uses are all D's: Doubt, Depression and Despair. They come in many forms, but clouds would be an adequate description, it would seem. Not really the clouds that Joni saw, of illusions or delusions, but dark thunderclouds, or relentless grey clouds pouring endless rain, sleet or snow upon our hurting hearts.

But the great thing is that the story does not end here. It is only a beginning. When we have the big picture we can see beyond the clouds; in fact we can see into the clouds, to the "silver lining". But we need our spiritual eyes, the eyes of Jesus living within us, and we need to be armed with the knowledge of the truth about who we are, Whom we belong to, and how to fight our adversary.

Streams in the Desert once again speaks forcefully to our cause:

Get into the habit of looking for the silver lining of the cloud and when you have found it, continue to look at it, rather than at the leaden gray in the middle. Do not yield to discouragement no matter how sorely pressed or beset you may be. A discouraged soul is helpless. ...Flee from every symptom of this deadly foe as you would flee from a viper. And be not slow in turning your back on it, unless you want to bite the dust in bitter defeat.

Search out God's promises and say aloud of each one: "This promise is mine." If you still experience a feeling of doubt and discouragement, pour out your heart to God and ask Him to rebuke the adversary who is so mercilessly nagging you. The very instant you wholeheartedly turn away from every symptom of distrust and discouragement, the blessed Holy Spirit will quicken your faith and inbreathe divine strength into your soul....

Oh, if our eyes could only behold the solid phalanx of strength, of power, that is ever behind every turning away from the hosts of darkness, God-ward, what scant heed would be given to the effort of the wily foe to distress, depress, discourage us!

All the marvelous attributes of the Godhead are on the side of the weakest believer, who in the name of Christ, and in simple, childlike trust, yields himself to God and turns to Him for help and guidance.

Let us now, whenever we are in a cloud, of whatever kind, remember to look at it from both sides.

They looked...and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. (Exodus 16:10)
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