When you walk through the fire you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.
More Musings on Mothers and Isaiah 43:1-3a
A friend of mine shared from her life how she applied this concept, "When you walk through the fire you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you." She is someone who has suffered much, yet remains calm and joyful. Her thoughts inspired me to think about this more deeply. So, what I'll share today was partly inspired by her example.
God does not promise that we will never pass through fires. We can think of fires as the trials of life. They are part of living in a fallen world.
I Peter 1:6-7 tells us "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now, for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
God uses the fires of life to test and refine our faith, so that our faith may result in praise and glory. He does not pretend that these flames are not painful. He promises, however, that he will work them for good if we love the Lord and are called according to his promise. Romans 8:28. He also reminds us that we are on our way to heaven, where there will be no more sorrow or pain.
What are the fires in your life?
I think Peter is speaking to a group who were undergoing persecution, and everyone who wants to live a godly life will face that in some form or another. (2 Timothy 3:2) We should not be surprised by the presence of persecution in our lives, but by the absence of it.
In the U.S., persecution comes mostly in the form of verbal rejection, but there are many in the world who undergo torture and even death for their faith. Even so, being ridiculed or verbally attacked or rejected can be a stinging fire in your life. Jesus tells us that we can and should rejoice when this happens, for the the joy of our reward in heaven is greater than the pain of rejection on this earth. (Matthew 6:10-13)
Right now, it seems our culture is bent on undermining the faith of the young. At some point, your children will pass through the flames of persecution, either by peers or by future professors, bosses, and other people of authority in their lives. It's wise to give our children the tools to help them trust in the Lord and pass through the flame without their faith burning away. Pray with them and for them and give them a good foundation in God's word. Trust that God loves your children and will be there for them as they pass through the fire.
There are other fires we might face, as well. Some of the ones I've faced are losing two children to miscarriage, health challenges, times in life when it seemed there were more needs to meet than I could handle, concerns for children, surgery, hurts in relationships, people I love turning from the Lord, reaching middle age and reckoning with dreams that didn't turn out the way I thought they would, being the victim of a crime, battling sin and character flaws, etc.
These trials are so trivial compared to what many people face in the world that I am almost ashamed to jot down this list. Still, even a little trial requires us to lean on God in faith to walk through the fire without getting scorched or burned. In fact, sometimes, it's the tiny irritants that get under our skin and threaten to undo our peace. How wonderful it is to be able to claim the promise in any situation -- great or small -- that the fires will not consume us.
We've all met or have even been women who've been burned by fires. Sometimes the women we meet bear the scorch marks of big fires, such as child abuse or divorce.
We even have a phrase for this in our language. If we have been lied to or mistreated by someone or if our dreams don't work out, we say, "I got burned."
To me, some symptoms of being burned are
1) Barely hanging on to our faith, but losing our passion for the Lord; blending in with the world instead of being salt and light; losing our joy
2) Pulling back from relationships in fear of getting hurt again;
3) Unresolved anger, bitterness, hardness, hidden sorrow, not being ourselves around people but hiding behind a polite mask
4) Letting nervousness and fear, rather than faith rule our thoughts.
5) Finding it hard to trust the Lord and people; always trying to be in control; manipulating others
When I find myself experiencing any of the above symptoms, I know that I have not been fully relying on God to carry me through the flames. It's easy for me to think I'm trusting the Lord when things are going well. In the flames, I find out where I've really put my faith.
Fortunately, if do we look inside and recognize scorch marks on our hearts, God can heal us. Also, God provides us with opportunities to reach out in love to women who have been burned by life.
How can we walk through fires without getting burned in the first place? Here are a few
A. Pray about everything; worry about nothing; cast your burdens on the Lord; fix your thoughts on wholesome things; look for reasons to be thankful; keep on doing what is right - Phil. 4:4-9
B. Be honest about your feelings, even if they aren't pretty. In your anger or distress do not sin, but don't try to pretend you are not in pain. Read the psalms and notice how David worked through his emotions as he went through trials. Talk to God and to a few trusted friends. Seek the prayers of others as you pass through the trials.
C. Have a list of "anchor" scriptures -- scriptures that bring comfort. In a time of trial, you might not be able to focus on a deep Bible study. If a loved one is in the hospital, for example, your schedule will be out of whack and you might not be able to focus on something that requires a lot of concentration. In those moments, it's handy to have soothing scriptures in your mind and heart on which you can meditate.
D. Make every effort to reach out to others in love, even while you are going through trial. This will help your own frame of mind.
As mothers, it's often easier to pass through our own fires than it is to watch our children encounter heartaches and struggles. There are times when it is appropriate for us to protect our children. However, there are times when it is better for us to let them walk through a little fire, so that they can become strong in faith and in character. This takes faith, prayer, wisdom, and knowing what our child is or is not ready to handle. While there are exceptions to every rule, women lean towards being over-protective of their children. Often, fathers or other male figures can help us out here. This is particularly true when it comes to rearing a boy, because boys follow a slightly different path to maturity than girls do. I know my husband helped me and still helps me not to be over-protective of both our children. (On the other hand, since we were girls once, we may have to gently provide our husbands with an understanding of how girls mature.)
What a beautiful promise from the Lord that the flames of life will not consume us if we are in a right relationship with Him! How great it is to know that as he leads mothers through the fires of life, he leads and protects children, as well. As long as we walk with Him, we need not fear. The fires may sting, but they will not destroy.