Have you ever witnessed the aftermath of a forest fire? Black, chalky tree trunks lay felled across the scorched forest. Maybe you have observed the actual devouring — flames reaching toward the sky, changing colors as they travel across the varying landscape, fuel for the fire charging from brush to tree. It is heart wrenching to observe such devastation.
And yet, if you stand at the edge of a fire-claimed forest long enough, you’ll notice something peculiar. After a dormant period, green shoots will emerge from the earth. Their unmistakable bright hue will serve a hope-filled contrast to the blackened panorama. Life will begin to grow once more — life only possible by the fire itself. There are certain plants that cannot be born outside of fire. Lodgepole Pine, Eucalyptus, and Banksia have seeds which can only be activated by extreme heat. Covered in resin that can only be melted away, allowing the seed to be released, these plants rely on fire as a life source.
How often do we feel the fires of life claiming acres of our heart space? Just like a forest given to fire, we buckle beneath the assault of uncontrollable circumstances. And yet, as in the forest, fire can serve a significant purpose in our lives.
Just like those seeds held in the cusp of time, waiting for heat to free them, likewise fire can bring unexpected revival to us. The grief of loss, the uncertainty of the future, the prison of anxiety, the chains of addiction, the sting of betrayal, the loneliness of suffering — God can redeem all of these and use them to grow our faith, if we’ll trust Him to work beyond what we can see.
Peter wrote of this faith-building by means of fire. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” He wrote in 1 Peter 1:3-7, “According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Fire refines our faith, and — just like those seeds ready and waiting on the forest floor — fire brings opportunity for new life. As difficult as it is to stand at the edge of a deadened forest and imagine life on the horizon, so it is hard to believe God will bring hope from our suffering. Yet if we stand at the perimeter of the trees, and we dare to imagine vitality eager to emerge from the ruins, our faith grows up. It matures into a deeper understanding of our faithful God who stands sovereign over every flame, the One who can bring much from the fire.