Sooner or later, we all come to a part of our life that feels like walking through a fire: bereavement, losing a job, miscarriage, illness, or many other painful, difficult and stressful circumstances. Probably you’ve done some firewalking in your time. Perhaps you’re in the middle of a fire season right now.
It’s not so long since I came through a furnace of my own: Moving from a secure life in England to a new, much less predictable one overseas, dealing with my kids’ reactions to leaving and losing friends, coping with their angry heartache as well as my own. It’s been a fire-walk: intense, painful, and sometimes terrifying. But, (and it amazes me that I can write this) like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, thrown into a furnace because of their faithfulness to God, I have looked for, and found, the presence of God in it all. I’ve been able to stand and walk around, even when I feared that I’d be consumed by the intensity of the flames. I have been ‘Not alone’.
And it is not that I’ve discovered that the fire was not so hot after all.
In the story we’re told that this furnace was seven times hotter than usual. The miracle was not that the fire turned out not to be so hot after all. And moving country didn’t turn out to be easier than I expected… if anything it’s been much harder…
And it’s not that I was instantly rescued out of it.
These guys spent a while in the fire, and so did I, and so, probably, will you. But, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, I did walk out the other side eventually and when I did I discovered that I wasn’t singed. Changed by the experience certainly, but not scarred… not defeated…not destroyed.
And, like them, I now notice that the only things that have actually been burned away and destroyed are ties that had bound me up: false beliefs and ways of living that had limited me – constraints that had stopped me from being all that God wanted me to be. Now that’s a miracle!
Not that I believe that my heavenly Father caused that fire in my life, or intended it for me, I don’t. But instead, I’ve learned that there are fire times in life, and that the enemy will use them to try to destroy, but that when we choose to trust God and look for Him among the flames, our wonderful, redemptive, creative Father can use them to bring us into new places of freedom.
So this week’s postcard is a fire. And the message on the back is simple:
As I write this, I am painfully aware of friends who live their lives in a fire from which they expect no release until they stand in heaven itself, held in the arms of their Saviour. I think especially of those I know who have experienced, and are experiencing every day, the death of a loved one, particularly of a child. Friends, I cannot begin to understand your fire. I could only say that for you, every day that you stand and walk around in that fire is a victory, and I honour you for it. And whether or not you are able to stand, I am confident of this, Jesus will stand, sit, kneel, weep, be alongside you every day, every minute that you are there. You are not alone.
Lord, be close,
when I walk into the fire
when all I see is flames
let me turn and see your face.
and on days when I cannot cry out to you.
call out to me,
shout loud, whisper quietly,
and I will try to lean into you.
Until the day that you lead me out into open space again
Let me know
that I am not alone.
If you want to travel with this a little more, read Isaiah 43: 1-2