When you do everything you can do, that's when God will step in and do what you can't do.
- Joel Osteen
Today’s guest blogger is Mysterious Ways assistant editor Daniel Kessel.
God speaks to us in mysterious ways, but how can we be certain that we've understood?
That's one question that Noah, in director Darren Aronofsky's new movie, grapples with. Last weekend, inspired by Jessica Toomer's excellent review, I went to see the movie with my family.
We came away with different opinions. My mom admired the movie for bringing the Bible story to life (Aronofsky's ark, for example, matches the exact dimensions given in Genesis 6:15-16) but wasn't crazy about its more "Hollywood" plot innovations. My brother, a film enthusiast, applauded Russell Crowe's portrayal of Noah and the supporting performances by Emma Watson and Anthony Hopkins. For me, though, Noah's spiritual journey steals the show. You might even call it the first account of a Mysterious Ways.
Imagine receiving a vision in which God commands you to build an ark. The ark will allow you and your family to survive the biggest storm mankind has ever seen. Everything else, the world as you know it, will be destroyed. That's a radical vision and an equally radical plan. Wouldn't it be nice to double check with God, make sure you've heard his plans correctly, before putting everything aside and undertaking such a monumental task?
But Noah doesn't wait for a sign. He gets right to work. He may not understand the full extent of God's plan–an uncertainty the movie dramatizes to great effect–but he obeys the commands on faith. Then the miracles occur. A pair of every species of animal flocks to the ark, just as the vision foretold; the torrential rains begin, and Noah and his family drift in the ark for more than a year. When the floods finally recede, they step foot on dry land once again.
Only then does Noah get a sign. He looks up at the sky. "I have placed my rainbow in the clouds," God tells him. "Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life" (9:13-15). It’s a moment of reassurance. The rainbow in the clouds is God’s presence manifested, physical evidence that Noah was never alone.
We've all grappled with uncertainty at some point in our lives, whether it's starting a difficult project or learning to shed anxiety. But we also receive signs, proof that our lives are part of a bigger plan. Noah actors Anthony Hopkins and Russell Crowe can both attest to that.
How about you? Have you ever received a “rainbow in the clouds”?