The house was on fire.
When I was 12 years old, our new home was in flames the day before Christmas.
It probably could have been contained, but neither fire extinguisher worked, and the water hose was frozen. The volunteer fire department finally arrived on the scene, but their first park was too far away for their hose to reach.
My dad was the only one home that day besides my grandmother. Since they were both safe, Dad managed to grab our Christmas presents and a few other things. But after trying everything in his power, he couldn’t save the house. When the fire got out of control, all he could do was just stand there and watch it burn.
I think most of us can go back and remember a time when we tried everything in our power, and nothing worked. A broken relationship. A death. A disaster. Depression. Whatever the circumstances, life went up in flames. And despite our most desperate efforts, all we could do was stand there and just watch it burn.
When there’s a fire, there are questions. Once we know if everyone’s okay, we want to know how it happened. We want to know why. Questions are natural, and there’s nothing wrong with asking why. It’s human…even for God.
When Jesus was hanging between heaven and earth, literally making a bridge between them with His butchered body, He asked His Father why – why was He being forsaken.
We don’t have to tell ourselves we’re terrible Christians for wondering why when Christ Himself asked the question. But there’s no record He was answered right then. And sometimes we don’t get an answer either.
The universe can feel like a very random place to live. The truth is good and bad things happen to good and bad people. Some things are so confusing or terrible I would never sit across from someone and say everything in life happens for reason (especially when I can’t tell them what it is).
The funny thing about answers is they’re not always enough. We knew how that fire started. Sparks from our wood furnace got up into some exposed insulation, and they quickly spread.
But knowing that didn’t bring anything back.
Recently I asked friends what they wish they had known in the most difficult time of their life. Honestly, when I asked that, I didn’t have an answer myself. But I’ve been thinking about trouble for a long time, and it can be a lot like a fire.
I usually think of fire as something terrible because of how it consumes and destroys. But actually fire is used all the time to serve different purposes, many of them very useful.
The bright diamonds and shiny white gold in my wedding rings weren’t always so perfect. Before they could be molded, they were under a lot of pressure and heat.
Peter wrote that the trial of our faith is “much more precious than of gold…though it be tried with fire” (1 Pet. 1:7).
I don’t think God fuels all the fires that try my faith,
but I do believe He forges it in the furnace.
So now, I think if I could go back to the most difficult times in my life, I would tell myself something like this:
“If you can’t have peace that comes from understanding, seek the peace that passes understanding. Even if there’s no good reason why this is happening, it doesn’t mean your pain is pointless. If there’s no escape when there’s a fire, build a furnace. Fire won’t consume you if it refines you.”
“…I will be with thee…when thou walkest through the fire ,
thou shalt not be burned;
neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”