Life…it happens to all of us. We embark on the journey and so long as there are no bumps in the road, we feel pretty satisfied. It’s easy to recognize life’s blessings and thank God for everything He does for us and gives to us. I have heard these phases of our lives described in several ways: made in the shade, smooth sailing, piece of cake. How long can we be guaranteed a blissful, problem-free existence? Two weeks? Six months? One year? Ten years? How long before we look straight into the eyes of fire? How long before we crash and burn?
Tragedies, temptations, and trials tiptoe into our lives and it doesn’t take long for the sparks to ignite and set our world on fire. If we aren’t careful, whatever it is we’re facing will consume us and become our main focus. We have the power to choose how to fight life’s toughest battles. We can be brave or fearful. We can ask God to help us or we can fly solo. We can let it go or become entangled. We can escape unharmed or go up in flames. Inevitably, our faith in God is challenged and our character is compromised.
I am notorious for handling obstacles in the wrong way. I detect danger coming, I go into survival mode, and I plan my counter attack. I begin with suiting up. I pull on choice pieces of God’s armor (Ephesians 6:11-17) depending on what I’m facing. I’m ever aware that a battle is raging, my heart is pounding and I know that I must get moving! I might pray, but it’s quick and impersonal. It’s not like I invite God to be the general—that might mean I would lose control. It never takes too long to realize I am in a heap of trouble. Instead of using my faith to “move mountains,” (Matthew 17:20) I wind up breathless beneath a pile of rubble. Then and only then I send my smoke signal up to God.
I worry about everything. That character flaw is never more evident than when trouble is brewing in my life. My obsession on the negative begins to smolder in my soul. Smoke blinds me from the reality of what is actually taking place, and my character is crushed. My weakness and inability to fan the flames reveals insecurity, paranoia, and lack of confidence in God’s sovereign grace. Rather than standing strong and claiming Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him,” I play the fool while sweating it out in the midst of an inferno….alone.
Choking and strangling, I attempt a humble retreat to safe ground. With a singed heart, I present myself to God. I stand before Him unworthy; yet I feel His love. I sense the soothing warmth of His Holy Spirit. His holy fire refines me and perfects me. I look to the future with hope because “The Lord will fight for me. I need only be still.” Exodus 14:14.