Within the Clouds by John Maust


One thing I miss about Miami is the clouds. In the 10 years our family lived in Florida, I came to love the cottony, billowing clouds that towered above the ocean or that fled across the sky on warm evenings, bathed in blues and purples after the sunset. The light fluffy pillows seemed so low you could almost touch them.

Yet I also encountered a different kind of cloud in our time there—a problem in my work that caused much inner turmoil, tension and confusion.

For one of the few times in my life, I had trouble sleeping.  In a continuous loop, my mind replayed all the scenarios and issues of the situation.  Everything about it seemed wrong and unfair.  Why was God allowing this to happen?  What was he going to do about it?  What was he trying to tell me?

In the darkened bedroom, I would lie awake at nights listening to worship music, trying to pray, waiting for sleep to come. Then one night a particular song caught my attention. The lyrics described a person struggling to find God in a hard situation, finally to realize that “sometimes He comes in the clouds.  Sometimes His face cannot be found. Sometimes the sky is dark and gray.”

The Steven Curtis Chapman song seemed to capture my feelings completely, and then offered hope:  “Sometimes our faith can only grow, when we can’t see, so sometimes He comes in the clouds.”

Hmm . . . I’d never thought of my work-related problem as a “cloud” through which God could speak and increase my faith. 

Soon after I began reading the classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. One of the first entries that I read began, “In the Bible clouds are always associated with God. Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God. Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith.”

Clouds again! Dark experiences of our lives could actually be an opportunity for God to work in power in our lives, if only we will allow hm.

Out of curiosity, I took out a concordance and began referencing the different Scripture passages where the word, cloud, appeared.

Passages in Exodus (13:21-22, 19:16, 24:15, 34:5, 40:34-35) and the New Testament (particularly the Transfiguration story) showed how God sometimes manifested his presence in a cloud and in fact spoke from within the cloud.  

While my problem at work had become a cloud obscuring my vision, I realized that God was indeed speaking to me from within it—through his Word, through the counsel of friends, through the very need to stop and try to understand what he was saying through this situation.

Just as a blind person develops a more acute sense of hearing, the good thing about a cloud is that it sharpens our sense of spiritual listening.

Looking back, I see how God used the problem at work to draw me closer to him and ultimately to lead me into an exciting new area of ministry in which I’ve served for more than 20 years.  

And I do still miss those gorgeous clouds on a warm evening in Miami, especially on sub-zero days in wintry Wheaton.