FIRE! So many images come to my mind. From happily toasting marshmallows over a tranquil crackling campfire, to watching in horror as our family home burned down in angry raging flames, fire feels very controversial to me. I have a love/hate relationship with it.
Fire is a force to be reckoned with and understanding its place in our lives, will make its painful effects a little easier to bear. Wait. It has a place in our lives? Yes. And not just for s’mores. You may not see it, but you probably will feel its presence at some point.
Hurt Before Healing
If you have ever had Shingles, you have felt a pain which people describe as feeling as if they are on fire. It is basically the reactivation of chicken pox (on steroids)!!! Ironically Shingles (in Norwegian language) means “hell’s fire”. Having suffered through this horrid plague (I don’t know what else to call it), I was determined to figure out what inspirational lesson I could learn from feeling like my body was engulfed in flames.
So, not going to talk about fire as in cooking or keeping warm or even as a destructive force. It IS all those things. It also is a spiritual experience that happens way down deep in your heart. If you have any sort of desire to really know God better and you want to go deeper, you will encounter fire. It is God’s fire; the cleansing, life-giving flames of His presence that comes to light you on fire from the inside out. He does this to purify you and to change you; NOT to kill you. In the bigger picture of your life, you will see it was actually a gift. It will burn off all the masks, and secrets, and lies, and fears, and all things impure. It will reshape you, and mold you, and will create a masterpiece.
But – It will hurt before it heals.
Let The Pain In
While in the throes of the pain of Shingles, as I would weep to myself, I found the pain to be all consuming and it felt like it owned me. It got ALL of my attention; I couldn’t be torn away from its grasp on my body. It literally was like being burned alive. I knew – I just knew that this physical ailment would teach me something magnificent. That didn’t stop the pain. That didn’t dry my tears. That didn’t change the circumstance right away. The key was – I had to endure. I had to just let it run its course. This was a lesson that smacked me in the face – I, like most people, want my answers NOW. I want those quick answered prayers and purpose showing up at my door in all its glory. I want to see the end result before the end.
Sometimes, you just have to let the fire burn.
The Bible says that our God is an all consuming fire. He speaks LIFE from the flames that we only see as destructive. I used to go only so far with God – I would give Him parts of me, saving or holding back other parts. Maybe a trust issue or a fear issue, but somehow I was very hesitant to have that all consuming part of His nature welcomed into my life. No one throws out a welcome mat to pain. “Hey pain, sure – come on in! This will be so great.” Um, no. But finally I have been able to go deeper (“where feet may fail; deeper than my feet could ever wander..” – Hill Song), and through the pain I have endured and walked and survived and THRIVED. What? HOW is this even possible? I don’t know but I am thinking the 3 young men in the fiery furnace know a thing or two about this. They were IN the fire, but it did NOT destroy them. If anything, it gave them much more of a purpose and a story and a legacy. When you come through the fire, YES – you are some sort of iron clad warrior that laughs in the face of your enemies. You were NOT destroyed!
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” (11 Corinthians 4:7-12)
Always Purpose in Pain
My favorite phrase I always use to describe God’s mantra on my life is – Pain to Purpose. There is not ONE thing that has hurt me that has not changed me or grown me. There is not ONE flame that has been given the power to burn me out or kill me.
“Come be the fire inside of me.
Come be the flame upon my heart.
Come be the fire inside of me,
(Misty Edwards “You Won’t Relent.”)
I have come to understand that God’s fire will change you, purify you, heal you, drive you, impassion you, and ultimately – save you.