1 But now, says the Lord—
the one who created you, Jacob,
the one who formed you, Israel:
Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you won’t be scorched
and flame won’t burn you.
I love outdoor fires. But I hate the fact that at the end of the night you know you’re going to smell like smoke. It clings to your clothes. It clings to your hair.
None of us pass through this life without facing some extreme heat: trials whose fires leave tell-tale signs in their wake. We all are challenged by circumstances and difficulty; we face losses, disappointments and betrayals. We give thanks when we survive the heat without getting too seriously burned. We pass through the fire and move on, but not without a lingering sense that our clothes and hair still tell the tale about where we’ve been.
God promised through the prophet that when you walk through the fire, you wouldn’t be scorched.
Didn’t say you wouldn’t get smoky, though.
I remember walking through a section of woods that had recently undergone a controlled burn. All around, everything was charred black. The smell of smoke was overwhelming. There was no running from it. No denying the place had been on fire a few days earlier.
In every trial, we are promised that we will avoid the scorching – the absolute destruction reserved for those things in the forest that are already dead. But we are still marked by the experience, sometimes in ways that others can sense in us, and other times in ways where we just faintly catch a whiff of our own smokiness every now and again.
Fire is a necessary part of many natural systems. And that includes the fiery trials that often define our lives. None of us can escape the heat. And the smell of smoke may linger with us for a time. But when things have cooled and we’ve had time to reflect in prayer and conversation, we take comfort in the fact that though we faced the fire, God has seen us through.
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
What are some of the formative, “fiery” experiences of life that have lingered with you? What are some signs of these experiences that others might still notice when spending time with you? Are there some that you’re proud of because they’ve helped forge qualities you value in yourself? Are there others you are still working to wash away?
Prayer: God, deliver us today from the fiery trial. Give us faith to trust that you have used the heat of our circumstances to shape us into the people you have called us to be. Amen.