The Fire Within

It’s easy to be upbeat when all seems well in life. A peaceful home, good health, a loving family … that’s what makes me smile! And it’s even better when the weather is cooperating, too. To step out into the sunshine is like a punctuation mark in my day. I love it when I am hitting goals. I relish solving problems. And when others are winning with me, that just feels so good.

But it has not been so in the past few months. Life has been topsy turvy. Even dire news around the world just made the sorrow in my world even sharper.

I lost two friends in a space of a few weeks. A young man after a long battle with cancer. A teacher-friend after a car accident on a lonely country road. Receiving the text message at work was like being punched in the gut.

I remembered my own loss …

What do I say to a boy becoming a man who yearns for the shoulders of his father to cry on after a few stumbles? And what about the young women whose hearts ache for what could be if their father was around? Growing pains surrounded me.

Work is usually a welcome relief. But even that was not so.

Halfway through a brand new year and my engine was sputtering. So I stopped running and got back to basics.

Worn and weary, I stopped struggling. I laid the burdens down and followed the examples of the faithful. I did not go to self-help books. I note their authors seldom have to demonstrate the value of their advice. But the examples of the faithful are well-recorded. And their lives ‘shout’ credibility and raw reality to me.

I read the laments of the prophet Jeremiah, who as a young man  witnessed the destruction of his city Jerusalem in 586 BC. He wrote about what he saw: the pain and suffering of his people as they were led into Babylonian captivity. Yet, in spite of the hopeless situation (imagine the horrors of war and defeat, the craven cruelty of victors), he found hope in God.

“I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
The faithful love of the lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”

Lamentations 3:19-22. The Bible (NLT)

I read about Paul, the anti-christian Jewish scholar who became a follower of Jesus  after a miraculous encounter with him on the road to Damascus, who wrote about how God’s love prevails even in the midst of our troubles.

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8: 35, 38-39. The Bible (NLT)

The story of Joni Eareckson Tada (the quadriplegic turned disability advocate, mouth painter, author and speaker) brought home to me the kind of faith that rises above personal disaster, that goes beyond “Why?” to “For what purpose?” To a deep understanding of God’s eternal, abiding love.

So I laid my laments in front of God. In prayer and songs, in silence and the spoken word, in my writing and in avid reading. On solo walks, in the quiet of my room, at my desk, on the floor weeping. I was constantly reminded of who He is, His love and His promises. Even to me. In the cold of my winter, I felt the fire of renewed hope touch my soul and my spirit.

After three days, I was ready to face the topsy turvy world again. The fire within was tended back to a roaring flame. Yes, it might be winter, but the fire within is alive.

Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame.
Song of Songs 8:6. The Bible (NLT)

Are you feeling down and overwhelmed by life? Do you feel alone? Is no one stopping to give you time? Then why don’t you slow down like I did and spend time to renew the spirit.

If you are asking “What is life for?” and want to explore more, without pressure, check out a group called Alpha that is meeting near you. Go and join them because, like you, they are a diverse group of people seeking answers.


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