Many of our hearts have been so focused on the news out of California recently with the devastation caused by so many wild fires. Also, in our "own backyard" (literally... not our house, but the one behind ours) a house was destroyed by fire a couple of months ago.
For those of you who have been hanging around Shining River lately, you know that I had gone through some difficulties of a personal nature prior to our retreat... And actually, have endured my fair share over the past several years, if not over an entire lifetime...
Each one of us has some form of difficulty in our lives, and for those who think they don't... well, I wish you well, and bid you to stick around for a while. Eventually, you'll understand...
Jesus speaks these kind words to us in the midst of our pain:
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
He said these words to comfort His disciples, as He Himself was standing at the threshold of the biggest "fire" He'd ever be asked to endure (dying on the cross). He knows intimately the pain we endure. He cares, and He pleads our case before the Father in Heaven.
I was reading in the book of Romans in the Bible, portions of the eighth chapter. These words are so comforting, and I pray that He might use them to minister to your heart, if there is either a literal or a figurative "fire" in your own life.
"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's word.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose...
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?... Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?... 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 8:26-28, 31, 34b-35, 37-39
Paul didn't say all this from some "ivory tower". He had endured the type of hardships that most of us can't even imagine enduring. Yet he could confidently pen these words. He knew that Jesus has a way of bringing life out of death.
Surely, the landscape in much of beautiful Southern California looks desolate right now. I'm sure it's horribly heart breaking for those who live there. Yet truly, in that terribly scorched landscape, there lies a nutrient enriched, cleansed, freed earth; just waiting to spring to life once again. Yes, it will take time, tears and patience for it all to happen. There are so many lives that have been laid bare, and stripped down to the few things that really matter. I pray for those lives. Each one. Jesus cares for them, each and every one. And He cares for you too, no matter what has laid you low today. He desires to cleanse and renew you, to bring you His new life, to fill you with that Life, to replace what lies in the ashes.
If you know Him today, I encourage you to embrace and accept His healing hand to touch that pain. Let Him heal and restore you.
If you don't know Him, please consider that maybe, just maybe there IS One who cares more deeply for you than you could ever know. Ask Him into your life and your heart, and He will cause your desolation to spring into a well of living water, causing abundant gardens to grow where there was lifeless scorched earth before.
Some final portions of scripture to share, from the book of Isaiah:.
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.... Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you,..." Isaiah 43:2, 4a