Perhaps by the time you read this the temperature will have plunged and the rain set in again but now as I write the sun is shining brightly, the temperature in the shade is above 30º and a heat-wave warning has been issued for the Southeast of England. It’s been like this for two weeks already and the long-range forecast has no sign of any wetter weather to come for the next few weeks. It’s not what we are used to in the UK!
Weather like this means different things to different people. For many it’s a great pleasure – people are heading to beaches, parks and out into their gardens. Paddling pools are being filled and barbeques lit all over the country. For others it’s a miserable time – too hot to go out, a struggle to work, problems sleeping, hay fever, sunburn and headaches. You’ll have seen the tragic news of two Territorial Army soldiers dying in the Brecon Beacons during the sweltering weather on a training exercise. Hot weather has both its advantages and disadvantages.
Whether you are enjoying the sunshine, struggling in the heat or somewhere in between there are both dangers and lessons for believers in weather like this.
1) The biggest temptation of all is, as so often, to complain
Last year we complained because the summer was so wet. Now our tendency is to complain that it’s too hot, or too tiring. “It’s hard work watering the garden. The temperature is too high in the office. The supermarket has sold out of salad. The kids are getting grumpy.” It is so easy to find things to complain about, isn’t it? Yet Christians are commanded not to grumble (1 Cor 10:10) and to be content whatever our situation (Phil 4:11) – that includes in the heat. It’s simply ingratitude towards God when we complain.
Yes, it might be a struggle at times in hot weather but think just how many things we have to especially thank God for at the moment. We have fridges & freezers, cold running water, cool showers, fans, ice-creams and lollies. The shops are full of salads, melons, strawberries and cream. Some of us have air-conditioning in offices or cars. We have lightweight clothing to wear and sheets for our beds. Look out of the window – whatever your view, whether concrete or sandy sea-shore, doesn’t it look more attractive in the sunlight?
Many of our brothers and sisters live in countries which are always hot and without all the luxuries and conveniences we’ve listed out. Many of them struggle with drought and lack of rainfall year after year – our gardens are still green and we can still use our hosepipes. Start to count your blessings and you will find yourself overwhelmed with just how good God has been to you. That is the great antidote to complaining – so let’s praise God rather than grumble.
2) Laziness. We all tend to feel lethargic in the heat
Our brains don’t seem to work so well. It takes more effort to do anything. Maybe your mind is drifting towards your summer holiday and you feel disinclined to work. None of those things is an excuse for laziness. Remember that your employer is still paying you the same wage for your time. Even more importantly the Lord is still watching all you do – we are meant to be working wholeheartedly, as for him. The same jobs need to get done and others will suffer if you don’t pull your weight. So fight against laziness.
That doesn’t mean we can’t be sensible – a heat-wave is not the time to be mowing the lawn at midday or starting to build the garden shed. Postpone the jobs which can wait till cooler weather, reschedule the jobs which require hard physical effort into the cooler mornings or evenings and take a break in the middle of the day if you can. Use shade or air-conditioning if it’s available. Don’t expect to be able to achieve the same productivity as in cooler weather – that probably isn’t possible and there is no shame in being less productive so long as it isn’t out of laziness. Be sensible, preserve your energy for what is most important and get the rest you need but don’t slip into lazy habits.
3) Being grumpy or over-sensitive is another danger
If you are getting less sleep than usual or not coping well with the heat then it is hard to be patient with other people. If your nose and eyes are streaming with high pollen levels or your head is aching then you need great grace to treat other people with kindness and consideration.
Let’s pray for that help for ourselves and each other. And let’s be forgiving and considerate to other people when they are short-tempered with us. Whether you are enjoying the weather or struggling badly don’t get annoyed with those folk who feel the opposite way – remember we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.
4) In our culture, when the sun shines people wear less clothing
In those circumstances it’s harder to keep your mind pure and your eyes from wandering where they shouldn’t. How can we help ourselves and each other? Firstly take care where you go – if this is a temptation you are struggling with then don’t head for a crowded beach on a hot day – you can’t avoid people in skimpy clothing there. Perhaps find a quiet spot in the countryside by a river instead. Secondly, let’s make sure our clothing is not causing a problem for others. There’s no need to be covered head to toe – but it’s a matter of Christian love to make sure that your shorts are not too short and that your neckline is not too low. Husbands and wives can help one another by treating each other with especial consideration and care – if your mind and heart are taken up with your wife then the temptation to let your mind wander elsewhere is diminished (Proverbs 5:15-20).
5) Thank God for everything good about the hot weather
These are all real dangers and temptations that Satan will use to try and trap us into sin so let’s be on our guard against them. Even better, let’s use the opportunity to learn lessons we couldn’t otherwise without the heat.
Thank God if you are glad that rain hasn’t ruined this summer. Thank God if you have enjoyed a day on the beach or if the neighbour who is normally always in such a hurry has stopped to talk to you over the garden fence. Let’s live lives of constant gratefulness to God.
6) Pray for our brothers & sisters who have to live in such conditions all the time
We live in such a temperate climate in the UK we easily forget what a struggle day by day life is for believers in many other countries due to high temperatures, humidity, lack of rainfall, scarcity of water and so on. Remember folk we pray for in Sri Lanka, in Kenya, in Northern Cyprus, etc. Yes it’s true that many people who have grown up in hot places are better adapted to the heat than we are but that isn’t true for everyone – and their high temperatures are often far higher than we are experiencing now. If you are sweating then pray for missionaries struggling in 40ºC heat – it is often very hard for folk who have grown up in the UK to adapt to such heat. But it is part of what they bear all the time for the sake of Christ. So be driven to pray for them.
7) The high temperatures can help us to understand the Bible better
The Bible was written by people living in a much hotter climate than the one we live in and its hard to remember that when we read it. We easily understand scriptures like Psalm 19 ‘The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above declares his handiwork’ when it goes on to describe the sun making its circuit of the heavens because we all see the sun crossing the sky every day. But there are other verses we simply don’t appreciate because they were written by people living in an extremely hot country whilst we live in a temperate land. Consider these verses:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)
David, camping out in a desert wilderness, compares his desire for God with that of a thirsty man without water in just such a place. Unless we have experienced great thirst in great heat we cannot fully appreciate David’s simile but at the height a heat-wave we can at least understand it a little better.
For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall, like heat in a dry place. You subdue the noise of the foreigners; as heat by the shade of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is put down. (Isaiah 25:4-5)
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. (Psalm 121:5-6)
In these two passages the LORD is compared to a shade from the burning heat. On a cold, grey winter’s day in Stockport shade is not something important or attractive to me. But yesterday, as I stood out in the blazing sunshine in the middle of the day, getting into shade was a wonderful relief – so these passages come alive. Jesus told a parable to which the listening Palestinian farm labourers would have nodded their heads in agreement when they heard these words:
And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ (Matthew 20:11-12)
The point of the parable comes with far greater power if you yourself have spent a day working (or even relaxing) under the hot sun.
Even Biblical narrative is easier to understand when you are experiencing the kind of heat that was everyday experience for the original Israelite hearers. Reading that God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve in ‘the cool of the day’ makes more sense on the of a hot summer’s day. When I read about three men approaching ‘as Abraham sat in his tent in the heat of the day’ I start to realise how urgent their journey must have been and how desperate their need of refreshment was if they were still on the road in the extreme conditions of that time of day. I feel more for Hagar wandering with Ishmael in the wilderness and for Israelite slaves toiling to make bricks under a baking Egyptian sky. I understand Jacob’s complaint to Laban so much better:
There I was: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. These twenty years I have been in your house. I served you for fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. (Genesis 31:40-41)
8) But perhaps most of all the terrible warnings and judgements of the Bible come with greater power
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. (Psalm 32:4)
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory. (Revelation 16:8)
Which leads us to the darkest place of all: our Saviour stripped naked and exposed to the merciless heat of the midday sun as the fiery wrath of the Father for our sins was poured out upon him. Nothing in this world can help me take in the depth of his suffering and pain on the cross. Yet feeling the full strength of the noonday sun on the hottest day of the year opens my eyes a little wider to that aspect of his suffering. Surely seeing that should make us love him more?
If the heat helps us to be more thankful, to pray more earnestly for our brothers and sisters abroad or to love the Lord Jesus more, then this heat-wave will have done us eternal good. And don’t forget to stay thankful when it starts to rain again!