Unfortunately, their dog did not escape the flames.
Another friend spent a couple of days this week without electricity as a result of ice and snow.
Another is watching her daughter struggle with deep depression.
Yet another continues to search for a job more than eighteen months after being laid off.
A soul-sister's mother passed away recently.
Cancer keeps rearing its ugly head in the life and body of a young woman engaged to be married in June.
A young unwed pregnant woman without a plan for the future.
A brother in treatment for drug addiction.
The list is so long. And this is just the stuff that relates to people I know and love.
Then there is Egypt and all it is going thru.
Ice and snow and flooding are crippling entire states and nations.
Economic crises multiply on the personal, national, and international level.
There seems to be no end to the occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.
Our eyes and faces are darkened with terror and sadness.
Our sorrows run deep and wide. Our hearts break.
Prayers go up. Tears flow down.
Tonight I put my iPod on the dock and pressed play.
These are the words I heard:
So many times I've questioned certain circumstances and things I could not understand.
And many times, in trials, weakness blurs my vision;
that's when my frustration seems to get so out of hand.
Oh, but it's then I am reminded that I have never been forsaken;
I've never had to stand one test alone, no, no.
That's when I look at all the victories and the power of God starts rising up in me
and it's through the fire, my weakness it's made strong.
He never promised that the cross would not get heavy
and the hill would not be hard to climb.
He never offered our victories without fighting,
but He said help would always come in time.
Just remember when you're standing in the valley of decision
and the adversary says, "Give in,"
just hold on - Our Lord will show up and He will take you through the fire again.
I know within myself that I would surely perish
Oh but if I trust the mighty hand of God, He'll shield the flames again.
(Sung by the Crabb Family and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.)
Every time I hear that song, I am reminded of the most difficult fire I have ever passed through in my lifetime - and someday I will share that story here on the blog, but I must first get permission from the other people involved in the story before I make it public.
Anyway, at that time in my life and in the life of my family, I was helpless and hopeless on so many levels. I was afraid all the time. I was convinced that I would never sleep through an entire night. I thought I would never be able to travel again or teach again or do much of anything other than try to keep that fire under control. I was convinced that the fire we were in would never subside, never mind go out completely.
As the songwriter wrote: I could not understand. My frustration was out of hand. Back then I was reminded through songs like the one I quote here, through emails and phone calls and text messages and warm meals that I was not facing that test alone. To this day, I am reminded through rereading the journals I have kept for over 25 years of ways that I have been brought through many fires and have always came out stronger. I have experienced over and over in my life that help always comes in time. Relief comes. Rest comes. So does peace.
The outcome of the circumstances of my life has not always been what I wanted. My father died of cancer even after two rounds of chemo and endless hours of prayer. Two of my brothers witnessed the end of their marriages anyway. Another continues a valiant fight against diabetes. Addictions continue. Instability and illness persist even after we have done all that we can, all that we know to do. None of those are the outcomes I preferred or hoped or prayed for.
But still, but still, God saw me through all those fires back then.
He continues to see me through fires now.
He will see me through them again and again in the future.
I know, I know. Can I prove that God did or did not do anything either on my behalf or against me? No. Can I prove that God even exists? Nope. If I believe so much in God, why do I still mess up in so many ways every day of my life? Because I am human, profoundly imperfect, deeply flawed. Why am I still this doubtful, fearful, and confused so much of the time? The answer to the previous question applies to this one as well. How dare I compare my situation to the things that have happened in Rwanda and Egypt and on the backs of trucks where humans are trafficked? I do not dare to compare myself to them. I never would.
But the fires that have raged in my life have been real; they have been hot; they have been destructive. And this faith of mine, this trust in The Unseen One, the comfort of calling upon His name, of crying out to the One who Sees me, the One who listens, the One who loves me most of all - it gets me through the fires of my life. Every single time.
I may be totally wrong about all this. My faith may be completely blind. I do allow for that possibility. But if God is who He says He is, if the Word of God is true, then what I have said to myself in the dark for so many years, what I have placed my hope in for so many years, what I have run back to after I have screwed up so many times for so many years is the best news of all time - help IS on the way. Joy WILL come in the morning. Peace CAN pass understanding. Then fear is NOT the only option. Then I CAN do all things - including getting up the next tough hill, winning the next raging battle, and getting through this fire and the next one and the one after that.