When I was little and would get a splinter, my mom would grab a needle. As the terror grew in my heart, I would watch her light a match and hold the needle in the flame for a bit. After the needle cooled, then she would begin gently digging for the splinter. She explained that the flame killed any bacteria on the needle. Everything that would cause me harm, except the sharp point, had been eradicated. The fire had purified the needle.
The concept of fire is used in several figures of speech. The first one that comes to my mind is “going through the fire,” which expresses someone is going through a very trying and difficult time. Did you notice that it says, “going THROUGH the fire,” not setting up camp in the middle of the fire? A second figure of speech is “holding one’s feet to the fire.” In both cases, there is testing occurring. The first is the testing of one’s resolve or strength; the second is the testing of the truth or validity of a statement.
Are you going through the fire? When the fiery times come, I’m tempted to cry out, “Why me?” then set up a greenhouse where I nurture my pain. Others times, I want to garner sympathy and consider peddling my hardship like a door-to-door salesman or a continuous pop-up ad. But when I have my big girl pants on, I realize that I am not the only one who suffers in some form or other, and I begin figuring out how to use the pain as a catalyst for growth. The word catalyst means “that which evokes or speeds significant change or progress” (Merriam Webster).
Success and accolades work well as motivation to continue our path. However, the purifying fire consists of the rocks in our shoes, the detours that delay our timeline, the crushed dreams that lie in ashes, loneliness, the pain, physical or emotional. When we persevere through the fire, we rise with more substance and a renewed strength.
The potholes of life teach us patience, empathy, and endurance. They help us know that we are alive and productive. My dad used to say, “If the devil ain’t (sic) chasing you, then he’s already got you.” Even though this idea relates to temptation, I believe it also applies to the difficult circumstances, diagnoses, and other hurdles that pop up in our paths. If you are not faced with life-changing decisions, unexpected events, loss, and other tragedies, then you better check to see if you are even alive. Don’t waste your days on this earth asking, “Why me?” Instead, ask “Why NOT me?”
Faith and strength are built by going through the fire, not by having the fire extinguished. Believe it or not, I have encountered Christians who preach faith from their recliners. “If you believe, then God will do it! You must not have enough faith or that pain would vanquish!” Excuse me, but God is not our Santa Claus. He’s our father in the very essence of the word. As a verb, Merriam Webster defines father as “to be the founder, producer, or author of.”
-Every solid foundation contains hard material.
-Every product goes through testing.
-Every author incorporates conflict.
So, if you are in a painful situation, use your energy to seek out the purpose, the lesson, not sympathy or attention. Look around you and invest your energy in helping or encouraging others. The more pity you pour on yourself, the greater the pain.
When you are tempted to be the life of the pity party, look in the mirror and say,
“You is NOT a crybaby. You is smart. You is kind. You is getting strong!”
(My version of Abilene’s famous line in The Help.)
You suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ~I Peter 1: 6b-7 CSB
You are not in the fire alone.