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