God created the ecosystems we see to sustain life in every minute detail—right down to the rain that showers upon the thirsty earth.
The Apostle Paul in Acts 14:17 describes “rain from heaven” as a sign of God’s goodness that He provides as a witness to all of mankind. Rain is, indeed, an often-neglected blessing. Though a surprise shower here and there may bring us a touch of sorrow when we must reschedule plans dependent on clear skies, life on earth is wonderfully dependent on the liquid blessing that pours from the clouds above us.
While the planet Venus apparently experiences some sulfuric acid rain in its atmosphere, and Titan, a moon of Saturn, seems to suffer rain showers of poisonous liquid methane, Earth is blessed with rainfall of life-giving water. Many children learn about rain and our planet’s water cycle in their earliest science classes: Heat from the Sun evaporates water from the ocean and other sources, evaporated water forms clouds in the sky, those clouds shower rain back down to the earth, and the rain filters through soil before evaporating yet again, repeating the process. This cycle is a vital, continuous process in our environment and makes life possible on our world.
Yet there is much more to rain than the diagrams we see in our first science textbooks. Rain brings benefits that are easy to miss, and our world has been more intelligently designed and more finely tuned to take full advantage of the blessing of rain than most of us understand.
Have you ever felt that the plants and trees around you seem a little more lush and green a few days after a rainstorm?
That is because rain brings special benefits that other sources of water do not, due in part to the atmospheric processes that generate rain droplets. For instance, rainwater is much higher in oxygen content than other sources of water. This extra oxygen can help the plants when the ground is particularly saturated with water. While other sources of water, such as tap water, can cause roots to rot when the ground is oversaturated, the oxygen in rainwater helps to prevent this. At the same time, rainwater has not spent as much time in the ground before the plants take it in, making it “softer”—having a much lower concentration of salt—and thus more beneficial to plants.
Also, as the rain falls through the air to the ground, it brings with it additional nitrogen—the most abundant gas in our atmosphere. Nitrogen, in the form of ammonium and nitrates, is vital to plant health and is absorbed through their roots and leaves. Interestingly, the lightning that can sometimes accompany rainstorms helps to produce nitrates, splitting nitrogen molecules and combining the newly separated atoms with oxygen to form the nitrates rain brings to the ground—a process that reminds us of the psalmist’s praise of the Creator: “He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain” (Psalm 135:7).
Additional atmospheric components that combine with the rain droplets cause the water to be slightly acidic. When this water is soaked into the ground, this low-level acidity helps to free key nutrients from the soil, such as copper and zinc, making them more available to plants’ hungry roots. (This is quite different from the effect of acid rain, which releases more harmful compounds than helpful ones as a result of pollutants or even volcanic eruptions.)
Even the physical impact of rain droplets and the “washing” they bring provides benefits. When the rainfall is not too heavy, it helps clear dust and debris from the surface of leaves, which need exposure to the sun. Rain on leaves helps to clean out their stomata—pores that open and close on a leaf to control the plant’s respiration, or gas exchange.
Of course, too much of any good thing can be a problem, and rain is no exception. The rain that accompanies the winds of cyclones, hurricanes, and typhoons can be an agent of terrible destruction. From the sin of our first parents, mankind has lived in a world that does not consider the needs of humanity first. Too much rain in some portions of the planet causes floods and mudslides, bringing tremendous devastation. In fact, the Bible records that, more than 4,000 years ago, the Eternal One used rain, in combination with the unleashed “fountains of the great deep” (Genesis 7:11) to flood the entire world of that day. All land-dwelling life was destroyed, save Noah’s family and the animals he was charged to protect on his ark.
Yet at the end of that terrible period, God displayed another of rain’s wondrous gifts. Inspired Scripture tells us that God used the rainbow as a token of His promise never to flood the world again (Genesis 9:12–17). An astonishing quirk of the laws of physics, rainbows appear when the sun is at just the right angle behind the observer. The rays of light, refracted through the raindrops as through tiny prisms, are transformed, split into component colors by the raindrops, and we see a beautiful display of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and indigo.
Those beautiful colors appear to arc in the sky between the viewer and the storm, just as God’s promise stands between mankind and the threat of another global flood.
While we cannot control all the forces that operate within our world, we have the opportunity to appeal to the One who can. The rain is His creation, and He tells us that He uses it in our time to fulfill His purposes, just as He did in Noah’s day.
The prophetic warnings given to ancient Israel, which still hold meaning for us today, remind us that rain is provided to a land only at God’s will. If the Israelites would obey their Creator and seek His face, He promised them that He would “open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand” (Deuteronomy 28:12). Yet, if they disobeyed, He would “change the rain of your land to powder and dust” (v. 24). Rain is the lifeblood of the earth, and it flows only at His command and within the scope of His will.
As a generous God, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Yet a time is coming when those nations who will not accept the rule of His reigning Christ and who fail to send their people to keep the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem will not taste the blessing of rain until they repent and yield to Him (Zechariah 14:17).
Until that future time, rain showers will continue to arrive unexpectedly and cause the occasional unwelcome change of plans—perhaps a picnic ended abruptly as participants seek shelter, or a ballgame canceled just as players are about to take the field. But the next time that happens, perhaps we can step back a bit and consider what a wonder it is to live on a planet where life-giving water is so abundant that it falls from the sky. And perhaps, too, we can say a quick prayer to our merciful Creator for the blessing of rain.