On a Day of Gloom, I Saw This!


In recent years, as we are all aware, our nation has reeled from a string of overwhelming problems. After all this, we certainly didn’t need more instability, disunity, insecurity, confusion and woe; but Russia did it! The invasion of Ukraine has made life in our already distressed and turbulent world even more traumatic. Personally, I have spent days, nights, and now weeks searching the news, weeping, and praying for the Ukrainian people. With that, I’ve pleaded to God that He won’t let geo-political events spiral into a massively disastrous World War III.


As if we needed it, Pres. Putin reminds us again of “man’s inhumanity to man” -- firing on civilians, bombing hospitals, even brandishing his nuclear option. With nine nations possessing a combined total of over 13,000 nuclear warheads (and Iran nearing nuclear weapon capability) global catastrophe, even the end of the Age, might be around the next bend.


Don’t we wonder what might come next? To escape in the Rapture would be glorious, but what if we remain and our lives, like those of the Ukrainians, soon change forever? Our intrinsic “American optimism” surely hangs by a fragile thread. We need hope, don’t we? The other day, God gave me some encouragement, but first let me back up and explain myself a bit.


I didn’t have an easy childhood, but I do recall some good moments. One was sometimes sitting in a garden chair and watching clouds drifting by. They were so varied – light, dark, colorful, wispy, billowy, majestic . . . a celestial exhibition that inspired my imagination and comforted my soul.


But life happens, and children grow up. Eventually, with Paul, we “put away childish things.”[1] After all, how many adults feel moved to sit for hours in carefree abandon, musing over clouds? I don’t. Still, as evidenced by my overabundance of cloud pics, I do often glance up and capture them for my photo gallery.


Once in a great while, clouds even grab my attention and cause me to relapse into some childlike contemplation. In fact, it happened recently. Let’s say I got “my head in the clouds” and escaped the world a while. As I looked up at the heavens, storm clouds parted, the sky opened, and a bright cloud formation emerged. Fascinated, I snapped a pic and stared a while. It was unusual, so I searched for some spiritual application or even a message from God.


In fact, I did get something. I’m not claiming it’s prophetic but simply a spiritual application that encouraged me. I hope it blesses you, too. So, what was it? This may sound silly, but I saw a luminous large dog standing aloft on a dark turf. Actually, he was a gigantic one. (See how small the 2-story houses below look?)


As I pondered it, I thought of God. Now, please don’t think I’m in danger of pointing to some golden idol in the sky. I’m only thinking about the true God. I figure He’s been represented as a bird in Psalm 91:4 and, more specifically, as an eagle in Deut. 32:1. Also, He’s depicted as a lion, a leopard, and a bear in Hosea 13:7-8. Of course, Jesus is viewed both as a Lion and a Lamb in Rev. 5:5-6. OK, enough. I just doubt seriously that the Lord minds me comparing Him with our favorite canine.


But why a dog? After prayer, I settled upon an interpretation. To me, the cloud represented God as a transcendently powerful watchdog over His world, most specifically His people. Of course, unlike an earthly watchdog subject to a human master, our God lives in eternity and IS Master, subject to none. Here are a few thoughts about it:


I grew up in a time when most people had dogs for pets not watchdogs. Mostly, Americans saw themselves as “good law-abiding citizens.” For much of the country, life was sunny, and we felt safe and comfortable. A strange car drove through your neighborhood as you watered the lawn, you looked up smiled and waved, and were greeted with like mutuality of respect. Times changed, however, and so much of what we took for granted got upended. Our sense of stability, security, and peace of mind disappeared under the weight of a host of societal ills. Today, not taking the cultural shift seriously courts disaster.


The American Church is awakening to this unpleasant reality, too. Functioning in a post-war era, like the culture, we grew too soft, spoiled, and even entitled. We skirted the Apostle Paul’s warning that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.[2] We may not like to admit it, but we translated assurances of “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” into “Accept Jesus, and you can expect God to hand you a perpetually happy life.” This mindset greatly diminished the Church’s true strength and resolve.


Let’s face it, life is hard. Job’s friends had it wrong. Acting from a premise that life should be good for godly folks, they accused Job falsely. Yet, this dear man didn’t endure severe suffering for his sin but for his righteousness! Our human wisdom cannot fathom this. Job certainly didn’t. He had thought he’d live a happily blessed life forever. Instead, in despair, he lamented, ““Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Moses concurred: “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow. . .” (Psalm 90:10-11).


In the New Testament, Jesus affirmed this fact but added His glorious news: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).


Take heart even when troubles turn extreme? Yes! Believe it or not, we shouldn’t expect a path of sunshine and lollipops. From beginning to end, the Bible includes hardships and human tragedy. The thief who came to “steal, kill, and destroy” has always worked feverishly to wreck the image of God in humanity. In this end time, however, he’s making things all the worse. God’s Word says our enemy is “filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short."[3] After searching intensely for “peace and safety” people will think it has finally been obtained. Tragically, it will be a delusion ending in catastrophe.[4]


Let’s not be deceived about this! Real peace comes only from the Prince of Peace who reconciles people to God. This is the peace every soul truly needs -- peace with God, peace of God, peace that surpasses all understanding.[5] This is what He gives His children who trust Him.

Things may change drastically around us; times may become terribly perilous. Nevertheless, the wonderful One who “is the same yesterday, today, and forever”[6] will not fail us. Like a mighty watchdog over life’s dark storms, the Lord watches over us for our ultimate good. Promising never to leave nor to forsake us,[7] we can know He loves us, stands by us, and stays with us. His comforting presence gives us peace and confidence as He escorts us through this life and into the next.


How? Because He is omnipotent (no earthly power can stand before Him); He is omniscient (knowing all, He knows exactly what we need); He is omnipresent (everywhere: here where you are and there before you arrive); He is sovereign (working through the worst earthly troubles for the good of those called according to His purpose); He is transcendent (above our earthly trials, beyond the limits of our understanding, His ways above our own). Just think, this amazing God is always awake, alert, and passionately attentive to us.


I could cite other related Scriptures, but I’ll settle here on Psalm 121. It’s merely eight short verses yet so packed with assurance of God’s watchfulness over us. In the first 2 verses we read:

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”


Continuing through the last 6 verses, we see God’s watchfulness cited 5 times:

3 He will not let your foot slip — he who WATCHES OVER YOU will not slumber;

4 indeed, he who WATCHES OVER ISRAEL will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord WATCHES OVER YOU — the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all harm — HE WILL WATCH OVER YOUR LIFE;

8 the Lord will WATCH OVER YOUR COMING AND GOING both now and forevermore.”


I haven’t counted how many times the Bible tells us not to fear. Rick Warren and others say 365 times (one for each day of the year). For all time, He drives this point across: Fear not, for “the high and lofty one” [8] zealously keeps His watch and guards you.


David suffered a lot in life, yet he accurately declared, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”[9] Knowing we are under a covenant of better promises [10] -- that He will come soon,[11] that we will join the heavenly throng, and that we never again will experience suffering and death [12] -- should fill us with hope and confidence.


Let’s remember this: In our earthly sojourn below, things can get miserably dark where we can no longer even perceive God. I’ve given you a simple illustration of seeing Him in the clouds. It’s not real, of course. Here’s what IS real: God, His Word, His love, His truth, His care, and His faithful watchfulness. As we look up in childlike faith, awe, and wonder, our perception of Him becomes clearer. We “see” Him reigning over our lives and this world’s intense messes. This outlook is the making of a strong and robust people who will boldly shine their light, hold up a banner of truth and righteousness, and shake down hell’s gates.


So, look up with confident assurance! One day soon, people like you and me will no longer search for fleeting images in clouds. Rather, we will behold our King Jesus come thundering through the heavens “on the clouds with great power and glory”[13] He instructs us, His children, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”[14]

( © Phil McKay.Used by permission.)



If any of you have additional thoughts, I would love to hear from you. Please post a comment below. If you appreciated this message, I’d be grateful if you send it on to others with this link:

[1] 1 Cor. 13:11 [2] See Acts 14:22 [3] See Rev. 12:12 [4] See 1 Thess. 5:3 [5] See Rom. 5:1, Phil. 4:7 [6] Heb. 13:8 [7] See Deut. 31:6 & 8; Heb. 13:5 [8] Isaiah 57:15 [9] Psalm 23:6 [10] See Heb. 8:6 [11] See Rev. 22:20 [12] See Rev. 7:17 [13] See Matt. 24:30 [14] Luke 21:27-28 (Also, Matt. 24:30, 26:64; Mark 14:62; Rev. 1:7)

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