When we find ourselves calling upon God to rescue us from the furnace of affliction what we’re really doing is asking Him to save us from an opportunity whose primary function is to bring Him glory and secondary function is to inspire growth in us.
I never find myself asking Him to remove circumstances from my life when they suit me. When things are humming along I’m likely at my happiest though I rarely learn anything in these situations. I guess you could call that “blissful ignorance” and it’s safe to say that I don’t bring much glory to God because my focus becomes self-centred. Candidly speaking, it seems that the longer things go well, the less grateful I am. Why? Because the condition of my spirit begins to degrade – in the Old Testament days that is what they called a “hardened heart”. How many people really spend much time on their knees in worship, praise, prayer and thanksgiving when things are going splendidly?
Then there are those times – when I am being pulled out of the furnace that it seems to me I’m most grateful. It all has to do with mindset – where my focus is – and it’s usually on myself and my comfort rather than God and His promises for my life.
But here’s something new I’d like to try on, (did I just say that?). What would you say if I told you that the best place to practice gratitude is actually in the furnace of affliction? So, why am I not filled with gratitude when God stokes the fire a little? I know that every moment I spend in the furnace results in a spiritual upgrade, but for some reason – the “old man” in me seems to have the ability to resurrect itself when the coals begin to turn red.
Yahweh was in the furnace with Abednego, Meshach Shadrach, but since then He has made atonement for us, He is in us in the furnace – with all-conquering power and glory. Before we even step in there, He knows what the outcome will be and He invites us to come into the fire. I have, on occasion, bowed down to fear rather than accept His invitation.
It’s all in the mindset – like Joshua and Caleb who believed and saw the promise of God while the other ten spies needed see in order to believe. Glory is achieved in the furnace – His and ours. Daniels’ friends stepped into the furnace full on and later came out refreshed and with an attitude of gratitude. God is in our circumstances – we belong with Him.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 NIV.
I’ve been in a dark place recently. In truth, it seems as though I have been doing a world tour of dark places and yet, even my closest friends were not privy. I’ve hidden the worse of it from those who love me the most because I have always been rather particular about just how vulnerable I’ll allow myself to be. I don’t mind if my best friend knows about a bad day or two at the office, or that I’m feeling a little blue from time to time. But I can’t tell her that I cry myself to sleep every night. What would she think!? I don’t mind telling my children that I still mourn the recent death of my dog, but I can’t tell them that his death ripped a gaping hole in my heart that seems as though it’s destined to keep growing. This list goes on, but I think you get the picture. My pride dictated that I “suck it up”. I thought I could handle things on my own but I let things get out of hand. The worse things got, the more I withdrew into darkness. As scary as it was, it seemed familiar and safe.
Maybe you’re familiar with the place – the abyss where solitude has a strangle hold on your life? Every breath you breathe you long to reach out, but with each passing breath it becomes more and more difficult. The paralysis of analysis has set in; hope is all but snuffed out. You cling to your faith with your very life. You feel as if your already half buried; part of you wants to stay there and rest a while but the other half is struggling to get out of the grave. You need to connect with someone but you’ve been fighting it for so long that everything has piled up. Fear and shame are standing guard to make sure you don’t slip up and use a life-line. The truth is – if you reach out now – you’ll fall to pieces and they’ll know that you’re not … perfect! They’ll think that you’re one of “those” people who have problems, issues, unfulfilled desires, fears – they may even catch you in flagrante delicto perched upon the proverbial pity pot.
I can’t call now. I won’t even be able to mutter the word, “Hello”. The courtesy of asking the person on the other end of the phone how they are will, in all certainty, show itself for the requisite attempt at cordiality that it is – truth be known – it has to be all about me now. I need to keep some form of control over my quickly fading dignity so I decide an email is best to cover up the tears and blubbering. At the end of the day, I can always edit and – I don’t really have to choose “send”. Maybe just writing the email will be the cathartic experience I need to kick me off the pot. My pain splatters upon the page with every key stroke. Nothing is held back. Truth is leaking out through my fingertips. I don’t care who knows now. Who am I fooling? I don’t have the energy to continue the masquerade.
The silence is broken. The truth has set me free. I didn’t want anyone to see me naked. I just wanted to break the bonds of guilt, self loathing and condemnation that my adversary had so wittingly cast upon me – something I permitted. Ah, he didn’t count on me setting my pride aside. He didn’t think that the removal of the fig leaf would bring strength and healing. He was counting on me to use it to cover my fear and shame. He didn’t know that love casts out all fear. He didn’t know that God was able to show me His love through the one I connected with. She was His light.
Silence perpetuates darkness. Don’t let your enemy convince you that anyone thinks you’re perfect – or that you have no problems, or pain and suffering. Don’t let him think you’re alone or that no one has time for you. Don’t let him convince you that you’re a burden; this is the trickery and deceit that he uses to keep you isolated – in darkness. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” John 1:5.
If you are in this place right now, please – hit the send key and let me know how the light defeated your darkness.