As we continue our study of the book of Genesis I wanted to spend one more day focusing on Noah. There’s a detail in the story of the flood that escaped me for most of my life. When I finally studied the Bible for myself I was blown away by it. As most all of us know, the rains of the flood lasted for forty days.
Genesis 7:12 The rain continued to fall for forty days and forty nights.
For my whole life, this was more or less the duration of Noah and his family’s entire ordeal upon the ark. It rains, it floods, it stops raining, no more flood. As I’ve gotten older and learned a little more about floods, I’ve come to realize that floodwaters don’t immediately disappear when the rain stops. It takes time for the ground to absorb all the extra water and for that whole process to run its course. Armed with that newfound knowledge as an adult, I still never put much thought into the flood lasting much longer than 40 days. Maybe 40 days of rain, then a few weeks for everything to dry back out, then it’s all done and you’re off the boat.
But that’s not quite how it went down.
Genesis 8:13-14 Noah was now 601 years old. On the first day of the new year, ten and a half months after the flood began, the floodwaters had almost dried up from the earth. Noah lifted back the covering of the boat and saw that the surface of the ground was drying. 14 Two more months went by, and at last the earth was dry!
Let’s add it up. Ten and a half months AFTER the flood began, Noah checked the water levels, and then two more months passed away before the earth was dry. They spent a year floating around the world on the ark! The first time I realized this my mind was blown. You start to see the trial that Noah and his family endured in a different light when you realize just how long they were stuck on that boat.
As I was really thinking about all of this I came to realize a great lesson this teaches us. Sometimes a trial or situation lasts far longer than you think it will. 40 days and 40 nights of rain don’t exactly add up to one year of living on the boat, but that’s how it ended up playing out. Noah and his family endured, and ultimately better days were upon them. I find that we as modern Christians don’t seem to be quite as skilled at enduring trials and storms, however.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
This section of Ecclesiastes is just one of many places where the Bible informs us that we will have good times and hard times. Times of peace and times of war. We tend to employ selective amnesia when it comes to truths like these which causes us to struggle mightily when the promised tough times appear. Even once we accept that they’ve arrived, we’re ready for them to be over just about as quickly as they begin. “Lord, I have suffered through this long, horrible, ordeal. You were there as this all began three days ago, and God, I know you are mighty to save, so I ask that you deliver me out of this terrible situation.” And hey, sometimes He does deliver us out of a tough season within a few days, but we seem ill-equipped to deal with the fact that some seasons last longer than a few days. Some seem like 40-day storms and end up putting us stuck on a cramped, smelly boat for a year!
To me, there’s no one more inspiring than Joseph when it comes to this subject. Joseph was born into privilege. The youngest of all of his brothers and the favorite of his father, Joseph had a good life. Then he’s sold into slavery and once there he did something that I think we can all learn from. He became a great slave. Don’t ever forget the awfulness of his situation. You wanna talk about a 40-day boat ride turning into a much longer ordeal, look no further than Joseph. Compared to the loving embrace of his father, life as a slave was no cake walk and it certainly wasn’t fair and it certainly wasn’t what he’d envisioned for his life. But he buckled down, and he lived it out. Bad fortune strikes again, and by no fault of his own, he then gets thrown into prison. Surely this is where young Joseph would break, right? Now we’ll see depression, now we’ll see him shaking his fist at God for forsaking him, right? Nope. Joseph becomes such an amazing prisoner that he gets put in charge of all of the other prisoners!
We’re called to endure bad times for as long as the bad times last, but we’re also called to do all things as if we’re doing them for God. That includes the tough seasons. That means still working our hardest even in a bad job for a bad boss. That means still showing love to those people who keep hating you and treating you poorly. We get so desperate for God to rescue us from storms that we don’t even take a moment to consider that maybe what He needs in this season isn’t for us to sit on our knees in our room and cry out for deliverance, maybe he needs us to get to work and pilot the boat through the choppy seas.
We know hard times are coming. The Bible is crystal clear on this. It’s not usually up to us how long those hard times last. This means that just like Noah and his family had to find some way to make life on the boat work for a while, we need endeavor to make life work in the midst of our storms.
I’ve had something of a storm going on in my personal and spiritual life for the past three months. What’s funny is that it’s lasting much longer than I thought it would. Just when things seem back to normal, something happens to remind me that this is an ongoing situation. All of a sudden I find myself with a choice. Do I shake my fist at the sky or do I make the best of life on the boat? There’s something interesting I’ve found as I explored that question. Life in the midst of a storm is often just life stripped of some of its comforts. Yes, there are problems and issues, but ultimately during these times we’re being asked to take up residence in a place other than our usual comfort zone. I think that’s what makes it difficult to endure the swings of a life of faith as well as we should. Joseph didn’t have his loving father once he was a slave, didn’t have his freedom, didn’t have his fancy colorful coat. He had to adapt to a less familiar, less comfortable existence for a while. I’m trying to embrace that mindset because I want to be like Joseph. I want to excel even though things aren’t lined up perfectly for me right now. I want to live out this concept that I think we all need to get better at of enduring trials and storms better than we have in the past. Our cry shouldn’t only be “God deliver me from this storm”, but we need to add in some others like “God be with me in this storm”, “God teach me and strengthen me in this storm”, and “God use me for your glory in this storm.” He determines the length of the seasons, and when the time is right the rains will stop, and eventually, the floodwaters will recede, and that familiar dry ground will be visible once more. The question is, how well are we going to do during our time on the boat in the meantime?
I sure do love all of you. I really enjoy sharing my Bible study with anyone and everyone who comes by this blog. I hope the week is treating you well so far! If you have any prayer requests or just need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.