Many of you share with this writer in being at least a wee bit Irish. Many Scots-Irish descendants came to the Carolinas generations ago, and the majority of them settled in western North Carolina. My maternal great-grandmother, for example, was Rhoda Callahan (nee Rhoda O’Callahan), and many are my Irish roots.
Allow me to share with you what we have always called “An Old Irish Blessing,” or, in this case “a blessing from an old Irishman.” You no doubt have heard it and will remember it from years past. It goes like this:
May the road rise to meet you; may the wind be always at your back; may the rain
fall softly on your fields; may the sun shine kindly on your face; and may the Lord
ever hold you in the hollow of His hand.
Yet even as I write those words, I know that they promise things that are beyond my scope to provide. I cannot promise you that the road will ever rise to meet you. Sometimes the road will seem to run all uphill, and sometimes it will be so rough that you’ll wish you had not even started on the journey, and sometimes it will be so twisted and convoluted that you’ll not be sure of “where it is you be agoing.” Truth be told, I cannot honestly promise you that the road will always rise to meet you.
Nor can I promise you that the wind will be always at your back (especially not on the golf course.) More often than not, it will be blowing in your face, and sometimes it will gust with such fierceness that you wonder if your house will be standing when it stops blowing. Many of our fellow Americans have lost their houses to the wind in recent weeks and months. Moreover, sometimes the wind will chill you to the bone, but it won’t always be at your back, giving off gentle caresses with its pleasant breath. I can’t promise you that it will.
I certainly can’t promise you that the rain will fall softly on your fields. I can’t really say what the rain is going to do or when it is going to come or how hard it is going to fall. In fact, as I write this article, my wife just reported that our TV has lost its signal due to fierce, wind-driven rain. No one can control the rain, so we simply deal with it when it comes and pray for it when it doesn’t. As Mark Twain quipped, “Everyone is always talking about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it.” I can never promise you that the rain will always fall softly on your fields.
How sincerely I wish that I could ensure that the sun will always shine kindly on your face, but I can’t. Sometimes it will sear with such harshness as to leave you burned and sore, and other days – sometimes for long stretches of days – it won’t shine through at all.
There will be times, of course, when the road will indeed rise to meet you, and there will be times when the wind will billow your sails and propel you on your chosen course. To be sure, there will be times when the rain will arrive just when you need it and in just the right amount. Moreover, there will be times when the sun will shine upon you with soothing warmth, but things will not always be the way we want them; I cannot promise you that they will.
However, the last portion of that old Irish blessing I can verify with surety. I can confidently assure you that the Lord will always hold you in the hollow of His hand. Whatever may be the bumps in the road, however and with what intensity the wind may blow, wherever and in whatever amount the rain may fall, or with whatever intensity the sun may beam down, I can promise you that the Lord – our faithful, loving, dependable Lord – will always hold you in the hollow of His hand. That is not just my promise; it is His promise, and you can trust it. The old spiritual is still true: “He’s got the whole world – and you and me, brothers and sisters – in His hands.”
God’s love is an eternal, suffering, life-giving, salvation-providing love, one that will endure rugged roads, burning sun, flooding rain, destructive winds, and all the painful exigencies of life. Our loving God will ever hold us in the hollow of his hand. We may safely trust in that promise.