The Israelites were guided in their exodus from Egypt by God in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Considering this pillar was large enough to be seen by the approximately 1.5 million Israelites, it had to be the size of some of the tallest buildings in our largest cities. Few artists’ renderings do it justice.
While beholding a column of cloud that size would be quite impressive, experiencing the same as a column of fire could seem terribly frightening. But, as the fire was totally contained within the dimensions of the pillar, it did not pose harm, but lit up the night like thousands of flood lights to a football stadium.
In an odd way, whatever fiery trial we find ourselves in can do the same thing: illnesses/injuries even if they are not life-threatening, threaten to be life-changing; relationship losses through death, divorce, anger and pride; devastation of material goods, whether inflicted by self, others, or natural disasters; injustices that lead to loss of job, reputation or freedoms. All of these situations are frightening, and seem insurmountable when we’re in the middle of them. The Bible actually speaks of trials such as these as a fiery crucible that burns off the dross (waste/impurity) to leave the nugget of pure gold or silver. (Prov. 17:3, 27:21, Ps 66:10) BUT, what if the fire of the trial also lights the way to Jesus?
In the midst of such trials, the way through is not just extraordinarily difficult. At some point, it becomes impossible. That is when some give up, succumbing to utter despair and defeat. But for those who have fixed their eyes on Jesus, it is when everything but Him falls away, and only He is left. If the matter is life or death, only His miracle will keep the physical body alive, and only His love and grace will take us where we never die. If the matter is loss of relationship, He is the only One Who can fill that void completely with a relationship that cannot be equaled by any human. If the matter is material loss, it suddenly becomes clear how Jesus provides what we NEED. This kind of fire burns away our ideas, expectations, entitlements — even our hopes and dreams – and leaves us with nothing…but Him.
Sadly, it is only when we have nothing — but Him — that we realize He is truly all we need. No attachments means we have nothing left to lose. With nothing to lose, comes freedom: freedom from fear of loss, freedom to BE who God created us to be.
No one in their right mind would choose to walk through such devastation where it feels as if the heart is being ripped right out of the chest. But, if God’s calling requires such to attain the goal, our consolation is the pillar of fire will not burn us alive, but will laser-focus our sight on the only One needed.
“By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take.” Nehemiah 9:19