Seeing a silver lining

Driving home from Bible study this evening, I noticed clouds on the horizon. The sun was hidden behind a thick bank of clouds, but its light reflected off the edges of some of the clouds. I was reminded both of the phrase “Every cloud has a silver lining” and of my longtime confusion about the meaning of the phrase.

I knew the metaphoric meaning of the it, that along with something bad is something good, even if it may not be immediately obvious. What I couldn’t understand for over forty years was why anyone would think that clouds had linings.

Growing up, the only kind of lining I knew of was the kind in a coat, or maybe gloves. Coat linings were often kind of shiny, and I suppose that a lining made of gray material could look kind of silvery. But a lining was hidden, on the inside. It made sense to talk about a hidden lining in a difficult situation. But why would anyone think about linings in reference to clouds?

It was easy to imagine a cloud with a fluffy white covering, like a pillowcase. One could imagine that such a pillowcase had a silvery lining on the inside. And then inside the lined pillowcase was the rest of the cloud. But what would make anyone think of a cloud that way, let alone think that every single cloud was like that?

A chance comment a few years ago finally explained to me what people actually mean about clouds having a silver lining. Like the ones I saw on the way home this evening, they have a “lining” that is on the outside, not the inside. I would have called it an outline, rather than a lining, but I suppose we have to defer to the usage that goes back to John Milton’s Comus from 1634.

And now that I understand the phrase’s literal meaning, I can enjoy both the beauty of the clouds (which often move me to praise their Creator), and be reminded of the metaphoric meaning (and moved to trust what God is doing in my life). Certainly in this period of impending unemployment it is a reminder I can use often.


6 Responses to Seeing a silver lining

  1. Karen O says:

    Thank you for explaining that!

  2. Margaret says:

    Today I saw a cloud with a small hole in the middle and the Florida sun blazing out of the hole. It reminded me of this post, but in my case the silver was on the inside.

  3. Richard West says:


    If you wish to use my image without licence please can you give proper attribution to my photo.(the clouds)

    a simple heads up to or my flickr page is ample.


    Richard West (aka NinjaGecko)

  4. Jelio Radev says:

    There is no metaphorical meaning here. I always wondered why 90% of Christians are always looking for a different or hidden meaning of a verse like this one. Sometimes you better trust the literally meaning. Actually you do not know what “silver lining” means. You think you do, but you dont! In English it is a phrase, but remember that the original text is in Hebrew, and Jews do not use such a phrase. The meaning of “silver lining” is in front of you, but you do not see it. In this verse literally it comes to a silver and is directly related to the duration of life and the health. As I said most of the Christians think that all the verses or most of them have a hidden or different meaning, but it is not. In this verse, and in this case the term “silver lining” has nothing to do with the phrase you use in your language. It is all about a silver. literally! Now all you have to do is to search the internet for colloidal silver and its effect on the human body. When you do that, your eyes will be wide open and you will be very very surprised of what you will find. After you do your homework and research you will look at that verse in different way. I promise you ;) Good luck! ( I apologise for my English )

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