Life is complicated, life is not fair, and our life experiences can stretch our hearts, minds, and souls to a breaking point. Those times feel like the “furnace of affliction” Isaiah speaks about. Frequently, these times are not the product of poor choices made, but rather, choices made by others, or simply the result of being mortal.
Death of a loved one, a heart attack, cancer and chemotherapy, broken bones, abuse and betrayal put me into that fiery furnace. I wondered if I would survive! The intensity of the furnace consumed my life.
However, my epiphany in this personal furnace of affliction changed my life.
Life seems to follow the seasons, growing and flourishing seasons are followed by dying and cold seasons, and there is absolutely nothing we can do to change it. However, the growing time always comes after the cold and dead season, so there is always hope for the coming of Spring.
The sun literally does come out tomorrow, we can trust that event, and each new day brings blessings if we look for them. There were days in my furnace journey I defined blessings every day and wrote them down: the sky was blue, I saw a flower, I felt the companionship of a friend, a quail walked across the lawn just as I looked out, water came out of the tap, lights went on with the flip of a switch. Simple things that made my life easier were happening all the time when I looked for them. And recognizing them cooled my flaming soul.
In the uncontrollable furnaces of our lives, we are still in control. We can choose to curse God and resent the experiences, or we can choose to plant seeds of hope and nourish them. Some seeds only grow after forest fires. We develop patience as we watch for the seeds to break through the soil and struggle to move toward the sunlight. As the seed grows, and is nourished by good, deep soil, soft rains and sunshine, it develops strength to share with others.
Being proactive in the raging heat brought more calm and peace. What could I do? I could make a phone call, send a note, bake bread and share, take flowers, make soup, share veggies from the garden, spend time listening, give of time and resources to others. And I felt greater peace and calm in my furnace as I increased my random acts of kindness to others. I could do something every day to positively impact another person’s life.
I have been through several furnaces during my life, and though burned and scarred by some of them, I have learned that I will survive, that I will learn, that I will control much of what happens by being proactive.