Living Beyond Clouds
Marti Wibbels, MS, LMHC
Today, when someone mentions the “cloud,” it’s usually referring to a place to store data. The “cloud” we’re considering here has nothing to do with technology. Oswald Chambers said “clouds are always connected with God. Clouds are those sorrows or sufferings or providences, within or without our personal lives, which seem to dispute the rule of God. It is by those very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith.”
What “clouds” eclipse your vision of God? When I heard about dear friends in a BIG country I won’t name (in case you’re wondering, it’s a vast nation with eleven time zones!) where Internet access is at risk, I felt profound sadness and concern. Then I remembered—we can live without the Internet; we cannot live without Christ. And, dear ones, He is with YOU, wherever you are, whatever happens.
For our inevitable dark times, Oswald explained, “God cannot come near without clouds, He does not come in clear shining. It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials: through every cloud He brings, He wants us to unlearn something. His purpose in the cloud is to simplify our belief until our relationship to Him is exactly that of a child—God and my own soul, and other people are shadows.”
Relearning life, trusting God with childlike (not childish!) faith keeps us walking faithfully with the Lord through every storm, challenge, hurt, or disappointment. Consistently relying on God, we’re galvanized for transformational living.
The word transform is from the Greek metamorphoo, which describes “the change of moral character for the better, through the renewal of thinking power” (New Unger’s Bible Dictionary). Throughout every joy or sorrow, we can be transformed! Regardless of how, where, when, or by whom we’ve been hurt, we can continue being transformed! How does God’s love change us? His love transforms our thoughts, attitudes, and actions, enabling us to love ourselves and others.
A Jewish scholar asked Jesus, 'Which commandment is first and most important of all?' Jesus answered, The first and most important one is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength.’ This is the second: ‘You shall [unselfishly] love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:30, 31, AMP).
When we choose to love, the emotions of love follow our obedient choice. In “Practicing the Presence of People,” Mike Mason wrote, “Love is like oxygen. The breath of it I had just a moment ago will do me no good if I do not take another breath soon. To stay alive, I must keep breathing. In both Greek and Hebrew, the word for breath is the same as the word for spirit. But there is one vital difference between physical and spiritual breathing, for while the former is governed by an autonomic system, the latter is governed by the will…spiritual growth cannot happen automatically but only through conscious choice.”
Spiritual breathing involves the intentional, continual choice to inhale and exhale spiritually. How? We exhale spiritually by confessing sin: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9, NASB). Whenever we exhale, we’re agreeing with God about sinful attitudes or actions and choosing to live in His gracious forgiveness. We can yield every aspect of life to God, allowing Him not only to cleanse us from sin but transform us from the inside out.
When we inhale spiritually, we’re appropriating the power of the Holy Spirit, living in His strength instead of being governed by human weakness. Jesus said, I am the vine, and you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:5, NASB). For God’s children, the process of breathing spiritually is vital to victorious living. Paul used a metaphor to explain the process of spiritual inhalation: And don’t get drunk with wine, which is rebellion; instead, be filled with the fulness of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18, TPT). Someone who is drunk is controlled by alcohol; God wants us to be controlled—graciously empowered—by the Holy Spirit!
Jesus provided power and hope for us when He asked God the Father to send the Holy Spirit to dwell within each believer: And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive [and take to its heart] because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He (the Holy Spirit) remains with you continually and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans [comfortless, bereaved, and helpless]; I will come [back] to you (John 14:16-18, AMP).
Although the Holy Spirit indwells all believers, few allow Him to empower their lives. (Billy Graham once said only about 5% of born-again Christians understand the Spirit-controlled life!) Living in the Spirit’s power is not a faith “add-on” but the right and privilege of every believer.
In every area of life, we can experience the mighty work of our Triune God! God the Father loves, comforts, and directs His children. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1, NIV). God the Father sent His Son so we can experience new life: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12, NASB). Jesus gave His life so we can be born into the family of God (see John 3:3-17). God provided the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower us to live triumphantly. Because of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we can enjoy living as God’s beloved children every day!
Galatians 5:19-24 provides a simple litmus test to help us identify our spiritual condition. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these (verses 19-21, ESV). This passage likens “orgies” to “idolatry, jealousy” or “strife,” etc., each word describing an aspect of being controlled by the flesh, not God’s Spirit. As soon as we recognize ourselves in verses 19-21, it’s time to exhale, confessing sin, then inhale, allowing the Holy Spirit to cleanse and empower us.
As this passage transitions to the fruit of the Spirit, please note the word “fruit” is singular, not plural! This is a significant distinction since each word—from love to self-control—expresses the work of the Holy Spirit in and through us. [To describe an apple, for example, we might use multiple words (“red, yellow, green, tart, juicy,” etc.), each word helping us visualize one fruit.]
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”(Galatians 5:22-24, ESV). Please don’t pray for “the fruit of the Spirit,” since it’s already yours in Christ! [That would be like asking for an apple you’re holding in your hand!]
To access the fruit of the Spirit, yield your life to God—thoughts, actions, attitudes, and actions—allowing the indwelling Holy Spirit to take His rightful place as your Lord. He can do more in and through you than you can ask or imagine!
May you walk in the simplicity and joy of radical, transformational trust in God! Romans 12:1-2 (NASB) urges us to …present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.