Has God Left You In The Fire?

During high school and college I had an odd hobby: blacksmithing. I had a small shop set up behind my house with a coal forge, anvil, and tools, and spent many a happy hour hammering away at hot steel. It was a great guy hobby: sweat, hard work, and fire. From the experience of being a blacksmith, I learned an important lesson. Here it is (forgive the technical language): fire gets hot. Very hot. Hot enough to burn steel, which I originally thought was impossible. But I soon learned that when a project was heating in the fire, a few moments of inattentiveness was all it took to burn the steel into an unrecognizable and very inartistic lump. Leave your work in the fire too long and it will be totally ruined.

Christian, do you ever feel like God has left you in the fire too long?

Scripture uses the language of fire to describe trials. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you,” writes Peter in 1 Peter 4:12. It’s an apt metaphor: trials leap into existence quickly, they spread, and they burn our souls. And if we’re honest, it often feels like God has left us in the fire too long. But listen to what God promises through the prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 43:2-3: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.  For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Do you see the promise? God is no inattentive smith with the proverbial too many irons in the fire. Every moment of your trial is under his intense scrutiny. He brings infinite wisdom, infinite love, and infinite power all to bear on you when you suffer. His unlimited, eternal resources are engaged to ensure that your trial will not consume you, will not overwhelm you, will not burn you up and leave you wasted in the fire.

Christian, do you believe that? Do you believe it for your trial, the one you’re going through even at this moment? Trials don’t come pre-labeled as “Refiner’s Fire. Will last for 45 days before relief arrives.” They appear as a teen’s sudden rebellion, an unexpected two weeks’ notice at your job, or a broken transmission and fried hard drive in the same month. They don’t look like they’re managed and overseen by God to bring good results from horrible and trying situations. Trials just seem like someone is committing arson with the kindling of our lives.

But those are exactly the kinds of trials in which God is at work.

It is his glory to enter the chaos of our sorrows and suffering and, with infinite skill and power and attentiveness, to force our trials to do his bidding, to produce a glory that far outweighs the cost. We will not see the final product in this life, but we can be sure of this: God does not leave his children in the fire unattended.

Photo by Ari Helminen

  • http://lindsayamrhein.blogspot.com Lindsay

    Thank you! I needed this today!

    • Josh Blount

      You're welcome, Lindsay! I'm glad it was timely.

  • Lori

    Quite honestly, no, I do not believe that God does not leave us in the fire too long. I can't even figure out what I just wrote with all those double negatives. :-)

    What I have learned is that it is really hard to believe those things when you are "in" the fire. It isn't until you have emerged at the other end that you can believe that again. I have been in the fire many times in my life, none so long as with the death of our son, and right now I feel like I am in the fire again (about two years now) and I want out. I feel like I can't take it anymore.

    But, I also know that eventually – however long God decides to keep me here – I will believe again that God knows what He is doing. Right now I am just weary.

    I want to explain what I mean by believe. I believe all of what you wrote in my head. My heart is not always there. Sometimes when you are in the fire you just have to keep reminding yourself of the truths you know to be true and wait for your heart to catch up. It stinks. I hate the struggle to keep believing when I don't "feel" loved by God or when I feel like He has abandoned me.

    I know this refining process is necessary. I need it. I also want to be thankful that God cares enough about me to allow or cause it and that He shows me more of Himself through it. It is just really hard sometimes though. Thank you for this reminder.

  • Heidi

    When, after an extended fire, you can look back on it and still feel the scars… feel dead inside, you know that sometimes the fire does consume and crush and destroy. So, I don't know your definition of "not being burned or consumed", but it sure feels that way. But if that is just a way to say that I won't drop dead from the trial, then you are right… I unfortunately have to keep going on, though I don't want to.

    • Lori

      I know what you mean about feeling as though there are scars from a trial. I certainly have a huge hole in my heart from the death of our son – it won't be going away.

      I am pretty sure not being consumed is talking spiritually. Just as Jesus did not come to earth only to heal people or take away suffering – He came to take care of our sin problem – something that is much more important than a blind man being able to see or a lame man being able to walk.

      I think that is one of the hardest parts of life on earth – remembering that this is not all there is. In fact, our life is a vapor. We are here and gone. Eternity is what matters. I have to remind myself of this ALL the time!

      One thing my husband and I did during our grieving process was to read the Bible often and to journal about what we read. We reminded ourselves of God's attributes, His promises to us, His faithfulness in the Word, His provision. It is so helpful to spend time being grateful. It isn't forgetting what we have lost or the pain that we are feeling. However, we must keep our mind in the right place. If we don't focus on the Lord and what He had done for us through Christ we will become buried in the pain of our trial.

      I don't know what you are dealing with Heidi, but the Lord is faithful. Lamentations 3:

      22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
      his mercies never come to an end;
      23 they are new every morning;
      great is your faithfulness.
      24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
      “therefore I will hope in him.”

  • Danielle Parker

    Thank you, Josh & Lori, for sharing…. sometimes it just takes a perspective from someone thinking outside of the box to turn someone else's thoughts around. I think sometimes as humans our greatest battle is getting our minds out of "prison"….. may God's face shine upon you both <3

  • trent

    Thank you Stephen. I have to say that — right now — I agree that "it is really hard to believe those things when you are "in" the fire" and "sometimes the fire does consume and crush and destroy." I appreciate the honesty of those of you who replied. Sometimes I'm reluctant to tell other Christians that I'm not "counting it all joy" that I'm suffering through a particular trial (or that I'm struggling at all), because I'm judged as being "un-spiritual." I KNOW God is faithful, but sometimes in my heart it feels as though He's abandoned me . . .

  • Josh Blount

    Wow. Each of you are describing significant and difficult trials. As has already been said, I commend your honesty. And as I think about the real situations each of your comments represents, I'm keenly aware of the limitations of words – especially words mediated through a computer screen. I do pray that the Lord meets each of you in your situations.

    I think it's worth saying, in addition to the comments above, that God does not intend us to walk through trials with stoic indifference or apathy. Grief, pain, and sorrow can be godly emotions – the fact that our Lord wept at the death of his friend (John 11:35), and was acquainted with our sorrows (Isaiah 53:3) is proof of that. God's promise that the flames will not consume us doesn't mean we should pretend they don't burn – and sometimes burn fiercely.

    It's also a great comfort to me that God would choose to include one psalm in his inspired Word that never resolves to a "major" note. Psalm 88 begins in the dark, walks in the dark, and ends in the dark. And God chose this as an acceptable song for us to sing to him. The key is that, even in the dark, we lament and groan TO HIM. Our definition of "spiritual" or what "counting it all joy" should look like must take this into account. Wounded, weary cries to God are not signs of weak faith or anemic spirituality.

    May the Lord of all comforts comfort each of you in your trials! (2 Cor. 1:3; 1 Peter 5:10).

    Josh

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