Sunshine illuminates blue skies, inviting bright demeanors, optimistic outlooks, an end to sorrow. Yet in the 19th Psalm the heat of sunshine stands in for the general revelation of God’s judgment, from which everyone wishes to hide.
Rain falls from dreary or hostile clouds, dislodging plans, discouraging planners. Yet when God establishes the covenant with his people, rain is God’s blessing on the land, hope for obedient Israel’s harvest. When Jesus extends that blessing to the righteous and the wicked in the Sermon on the Mount, it is with the rain God provides indiscriminately.
Metaphors, imagery, and symbols more broadly, are ad hoc; even conventional tropes begin with arbitrary assignments. Whether sunshine means bright glare or dark shadow, whether rain translates to sorrow or sanctification, is in the person who experiences and describes it, and again in the one who reads and interprets it.
Paul is not the only one to face beating, imprisonment, robbery, stoning, mishap, and rejection. But neither is he alone when he has to decide what that suffering means to him: “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Knowing our author always means for us to depend on him, may this week shine and shower faith and its contentment on us.