Another in the Fire

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Do you know what we do a lot?

No, not obsessively watch shows on television hoping that this time they’ll actually resolve the plot to our satisfaction.

No, not eat candy bars hoping that Willy Wonka actually snuck in the special fat burning chocolate we’re all waiting to be released.

I mean. We do those things.

We also try and justify suffering.

It’s no great mystery why we try to justify suffering. It’s the same reason that a soldier goes to war and upon losing something, wether a friend, some amount of functionality, or just time in his life, returns and tries to justify that time.

If it costs us something. We have to have gained something.

Otherwise we have just lost.

The reality of suffering, though, is that it is redeemable, but can never be entered into or inflicted intentionally by us or those who mean the best for us.

God does not inflict us with suffering.

But He allows it.

And the great question of my life and throughout my life is this: if God is as powerful as I believe, and even more so, isn’t His allowance of my suffering one and the same as Him inflicting it? After all, there are laws that compel saving acts to intervene in the life or death situation of another person. We have all heard the old saw about evil triumphing because good men do not act. So does that mean that God, when He does not prevent our pain has, by way of not acting, caused it?

I don’t have a solid answer for that one.

This is what I know.

I believe God is good, not because I need Him to be good, but because He has proven Himself to be good.

I believe a good God is not a sadist.

So God does not inflict suffering.

There’s a grace when the heart is under fire

Another way when the walls are closing in

And when I look at the space between

Where I used to be and this reckoning

I know I will never be alone. [1]

One of the more important things I have learned through moments of suffering big and small is that more important than the question of origin is the question of destination. Our suffering came from some place, but where will we and it go?

And that is the miracle of the cross.

There is a kinsman redeemer who spreads Himself like the long anticipated golden thread in a grand fresco that eventually becomes the centerpiece of the design. He touched the hip of a man who desperately wanted a definition he didn’t have to steal. He was allegorically prophesied through the life of Ruth and Boaz.

He stood in the fire with three men who would not betray Him for the love of their own lives.

There was another in the fire

Standing next to me

There was another in the waters

Holding back the seas

And should I ever need reminding

Of how I’ve been set free

There is a cross that bears the burden

Where another died for me. [2]

In Revelation, we discover that the testimony of God’s love for us and our experience of Him is a weapon that defeats evil in ultimate. It also protects us from doubting reality into a state of denial of the truth. It is so important that we maintain in our experience of suffering a memory that God stands with us.

Sometimes it will be years before we see just how much He stands with us in the fires of life. Other times, we won’t know how, but we will know He did in fact stand with us as moments of our own folly surround us.

Sometimes we suffer because we have been faithful.

Sometimes we suffer because we started into something we did not measure first.

Sometimes we suffer and there’s no way to point to a cause.

Always, when we suffer, He’s closer than we can imagine.

Photo by Will van Wingerden on Unsplash

God’s redemption of our suffering is not constrained to the goodness of the knowledge that we had divine company in our pain. As the new song from Hillsong Worship turns from the past to the present, so does our attention. There is a consistent lying narrative in our lives that if we suffer, we utterly deserved it.

But that is not so in our entrenchment to the shackles of shame. Shame is a product of sin and the desire of darkness to hamper us from ever finding the light. Shame isolates. It distorts. It even slows down time.

All my debt left for death beneath the waters

I’m no longer a slave to my sin anymore

And should I fall in the space between

What remains of me and this reckoning

Either way I won’t bow

To the things of this world

And I know I will never be alone

There is another in the fire

Standing next to me

There is another in the waters

Holding back the seas

And should I ever need reminding

What power set me free

There is a grave that holds no body

And now that power lives in me [3]

So not only is our suffering redeemed but it plays a role in our larger redemption to the heart of God. Again, He is not the source of our pain, but He takes our pain and points back to Himself as a salve for the moment of pain and the greatest joy that moment may endure.

In this moment of pain, now, is my savior standing right next to me. He knows my pain, knows my fear, knows my agony, knows the eternity of a moment lived in pain and He takes up residence in that moment as long as it will last because He loves time spent with me wherever I am.

Who do you know like that?

I am awful to spend time with when I hurt. Not only does He endure my company when I am lowest, he revels in the best parts of me in those moments.

And the sun rises.

The Son dawns on my life.

And darkness not only cannot escape, but it must acknowledge the presence of God.

I can see the light in the darkness

As the darkness bows to Him

I can hear the roar in the heavens

As the space between wears thin

I can feel the ground shake beneath us

As the prison walls cave in

Nothing stands between us

Nothing stands between us

We try to make use of our suffering and probably the greatest evils executed on mankind for the purpose of “his own good” is using the emotional drive of tragedy to prevent future tragedy.

We lose friends to murder and attempt to make murder more illegal.

We screech like stung seagulls at wayward teenagers to not go wrong where we have gone wrong.

We make villains of people who resemble our former tormentors and torment them, furthering an evil cycle of hatred.

We cannot prevent all suffering.

The sky will darken.

The storm will gather its strength.

The wind will blow.

Rain will fall.

Thunder will tear through our walls and shake our marrow.

Photo by Arthur Aldyrkhanov on Unsplash

And God is already there, waiting for us, promising us that no matter what, He will walk through this with us. He will be there with us until the sun comes out again and the chaos subsides. And he will enjoy us no matter what.

There is no other name

But the name that is Jesus

He who was and still is

And will be through it all

So come what may in the space between

All the things unseen

And this reckoning

I know I will never be alone

And I know I will never be alone

There’ll be another in the fire

Standing next to me

There’ll be another in the waters

Holding back the seas

And should I ever need reminding

How good You’ve been to me

I’ll count the joy come every battle

‘Cause I know that’s where You’ll be [4]

Hillsong sings songs to my heart in the moments where my fear lurks. God truly uses their writing to declare His solitary power so that I may more accurately worship Him in the moments when I need Him. Worshiping Him in the darkness turns my darkness into mid day and there I have joy.

I cannot truly transmit to you the heart rending joy of the comfort knowing that He keeps me company in those moments.

He did and I can look back at every hard time and see His comforting touch.

I can look at my current challenges and know He is right next to me.

And what a mind blow. He’s waiting for me to join Him in the moments where I will suffer so that I will not go through a single moment without Him.

I do not have the precise answer to the sourcing of suffering.

But I know it is redeemed.

And so am I.



  1. Chris Davenport and Joel Houston, “Another in the Fire,” Hillsong Music Publishing, 2018. CCLI# 7124907
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid
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2 Comments

  1. In my senior bible class (oh-so-many years ago) I learned that suffering is the result of choice. In order for love to be real, it has to be a choice (there has to be something else to choose). The choice also has to be real, so there have to be consequences/effects of the choice, positive or negative. God allows suffering in general because he is allowing us to truly, freely choose to love Him.

    But then I ask myself if that just makes God a raging narcissist. Why did He make us to have to choose to love Him? I mean, were the angels not good enough?

    I know that God is good, not just in a “yeah, he’s a good guy” kind of way, but God IS Good. He IS Love. But I don’t understand how that matches up with creating beings who have to choose.

    My perspective is off, I know. I’m looking at it from down here on earth. I’m sitting here in the fire and ashes and wondering how it got lit in the first place, but I can’t see beyond the flames of this world.

    Maybe it’s like divorce, and He never wanted our hearts to be hard enough to take that option. Maybe it’s like the futility of not wanting your children to suffer: what good does it do to love them like that, to want to spare them, if they don’t exist in the first place? (If you’ve read the Ender’s Shadow series by Orson Scott Card, this refers to Bean and Petra’s conversation with Anton. I can’t remember the title of the book! Blargh!)

    Do you have any insights? This is something I’ve been wrestling with a lot lately.

    Like

    • I had a very abrasive Arab once confront me on the choices that the God I believe in makes. My rebuttal to a point he made began with, “Well God needed to…”

      “Neeeeed? What does God need?”

      It was a crazy good point, if not a little on the nose and ignorant of the context in which I was speaking. Nevertheless, it has definitely guided my thoughts on the purpose for creating us.

      He didn’t need company. He already had that in Himself as the triune God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all perfectly united and mutually submitted in relationship and care.

      He didn’t need glory. He already had a host of angels who would worship Him at the drop of a planet.

      He didn’t need subjects or a kingdom.

      He needed for nothing.

      I draw the idea, then, about our creation from the relationship I enjoy with my children, albeit far less perfectly than God enjoys His relationship with us. I longed to have children so that I could love them. I did not need them, but I desired them so greatly that I could not find any emotion closer than that of absolute need. I have four now and I have discovered the expanse of love has not been divided among the finite corners of my physical heart, but has expanded the boundaries of how much I could love.

      He created us to be choosing and thinking beings because we are in His image and that is what He is. We chose wrong, but He made it possible to choose right, not so that He might be comforted in His reception of what is His, but so that He might create a reflection of Himself, fully dedicated to making choices that would bring us closer together.

      The Westminister Confession of Faith states that the purpose of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Coupled with our conversation that means we have to eventually choose true enjoyment.

      Like

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