"But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..." Isaiah 43:1-3 (NIV)
I was awakened to the smell of fire. That realization made me bolt upright in my bed since we had just recently experienced the traumatic loss of all of our possessions through a house fire. I was hypersensitive (and remain so to this day) to the smell of burning. I gradually realized that the fire was far away from our house. This fire was set intentionally by the Congolese. As the need for sustenance for those on the mission station became greater during the year, the men would start these controlled fires to force the wildlife hiding in the grass to come out so it could be hunted for food. This was never done to be cruel to the animals. It was literally the difference between parents having to listen to their little ones crying themselves to sleep from hunger or not.
After the fires were out, the hills across from our lake would smolder for days. The smell of the smoke hung in the air and was inescapable. It always astounded me how quickly the landscape of the hills could change in one afternoon of burning. What was once green and lovely, beautiful to look at, now was charred and ugly, undesirable to walk in or gaze upon.
I think of those hills as sometimes being like my life. The fires of circumstances can do their devastating work in a matter of minutes, utterly changing my outlook. Where before my life was predictable and beautiful, suddenly I can now see only smoldering black ash. I can forget that my heavenly Father controls the fire and that He has promised to walk through that fire with me so that it will not set me ablaze.
With the knowledge that He is there with me, those ugly, charred places where the fire has ravaged can become places where purity reigns. Instead of being ravaged by the fire, I can be purified by the fire's heat. And with my hope firmly planted in my God, in whom hope springs eternal, those places can grow back more green and beautiful than ever before, just like they did in Congo.
Jesus, thank you that You have the power to take the fire's black ashes and turn them into something gloriously beautiful. My trust in You enables the fire to purify rather than ravage me.