Wednesday, March 29, 2023

A Hard Rain

My An Arkie's Faith column from the March 29, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

In 1962 Bob Dylan wrote one of his most famous protest songs, A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall. The song opens, as most older Dylan songs do, to the mellow strumming of an acoustic guitar and an introduction to that iconic voice of his. The song's first two lines are questions, "Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?" and "Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?"

By opening verses with questions like these, Dylan sets up a response to what he has seen, who he has met, what he has heard, and what he will do now. The song is full of dense imagery that suggests injustice, suffering, pollution, and warfare. Because the world focused on the atomic realities of the Cold War at the time Dylan wrote the song, some have suggested that the refrain of the song, "it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall." refers to nuclear fallout. However, Dylan said, "No, it's not atomic rain, it's just a hard rain. It isn't the fallout rain. I mean some sort of end that's just gotta happen".

Two lines particularly move me, "I met one man who was wounded in love," followed by, "I met another man who was wounded with hatred." I think that we have all, at some time, been wounded by someone we love. But I am even more sure that we have all experienced the wounds inflicted by those who hate us. Describing those who don't acknowledge God, the Bible says, "their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip." Romans 1:29 (NLT)

Dylan's song came to my mind as we were experiencing torrential rain here in Arkansas. Daddy and I were driving to Hot Springs for a doctor's appointment. As we left Mena, the rain fell so hard that the streets began to flood. Visibility was abysmal as wave after wave of rain seemed to crash to earth. The windshield wipers slapped at the rain in a vain attempt to keep the windshield clear, but it was a losing battle.

As we cautiously made our way through the Arkansas countryside, every stream was out of its banks, and often it was hard to tell where the stream was supposed to be. Ponds were overflowing, and rivers of rushing water flowed down driveways. Occasionally we would drive through a section of road with water standing on it and had to slow down to prevent hydroplaning. The sound of hitting those patches of water and the feeling of losing control of the car was unnerving.

The rain was relentless as we drove on toward Hot Springs. Water rushed through the ditches like a mighty river, flowing over driveways as the culverts were overwhelmed with more water than they could channel away. My head hurt from the tension of straining to see in the onslaught of rain. My hands gripped the steering wheel so tight that I had to remind myself to relax. But then we would hit another patch of water on the road, and the stress would return. 

A few miles from Hot Springs, the rain finally let up enough so that my windshield wipers no longer had to be on high, furiously trying to keep the windshield clear. I was thankful for the reprieve. The rain was heavy as we returned home, but nothing like the torrential rain we had experienced earlier. I was grateful when we made it back to Mena.

Because I had cleared my work schedule for the doctor's appointment, I decided to drive to De Queen to pick up a load of glass. The rain was just a drizzle as I went south on Highway 71. But before long, another band of torrential rain came through. I was second-guessing my decision to drive to De Queen.
When I arrived at my storage unit, I had to carefully pick my way through the driveway because it had washed out, and there was a gaping channel that my little S-10 pickup could not cross. I loaded my truck in the pouring rain and was soaked to the bone by the time I finished. As if on cue, the rain let up as soon as I finished loading my truck. Thankful for the reprieve, I headed back to Mena. Everywhere I looked, I could see the evidence of the hard rain. It would be a day I wouldn't forget for a long time.

All day the area had been under a Flood Warning, meaning that conditions were ripe for possible flooding. I thought about Job 12:15 (AMPC), which says, "He sends forth rains, and they overwhelm the land or transform it." I had seen hard rain overwhelm and transform the landscape.

Most of us have had life experiences when it seems that troubles come in like a flood. It may be a health crisis, accident, job loss, or relationship breakdown. The truth is, life is hard. It beats you down, wears you out, and disappoints you. One of the things you can be sure of in life is that, in the words of Bob Dylan, "a hard rain's a-gonna fall." But just as sure as a hard rain falling are God's promises. "When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him." Isaiah 59:19 (NKJV)

Our enemy is powerful. He is a roaring, rushing flood with the intent to destroy us. He rushes about with deceit, distraction, discouragement, and destruction. Like flood waters, he values nothing, nor does he play favorites or give anyone a break.

But there is a way to withstand the enemy. When Satan tries to erode our faith with the brutal rains of trouble and discouragement, we can trust in God. When the spiritual flood waters come, God has promised us safety. But just like an earthly flood, recognizing the warnings and seeking shelter is critical.

Gentle Reader, you know that hard rains are a part of life. When the rains come, hold on to the promise that God has given us in Isaiah 43:2 (NLT); "When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you." A hard rain's a-gonna fall, but "be satisfied with your present circumstances and with what you have; for God Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down." Hebrews 13:5 (AMPC)

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