Hey everyone! How are you doing?
Life has been in the fast lane lately for me as the holidays roll in and my son grows more daring. In my sparse moments of pursuing Facebook, I came across this post from my friend, Jared.
For those of you who don’t know. He is the very one I wrote about in my previous post titled: A Thief in the Night. In a nutshell, Jared and his family (friends with our pastor for many years), felt called to move to Ohio and join our church.
They sold their home and came up, Jared, his wife, Rachel, and their, at the time, 2 year old son, Isaac. We were overjoyed to have them as part of our church family—but it was short-lived.
The devil, like a thief in the night, took Rachel from us suddenly. From there our church struggled through a time of grief and loss, while Jared and his son struggled all the more. He had to keep smiling for his son, pick up the pieces of their lives, and overcome the biggest hurdle of all…continue trusting in God.
His journey of healing and hope has inspired hundreds. And now, a-few years later—Jared and his family continue to inspire.
Here is his most recent post I really wanted to share with you:
My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can!
James 1:2 The Passion Translation
Yesterday, I went for a drive, the first in a while that I didn’t have to feel rushed or have my mind on the next task (it’s good when we get these moments). I started to pray with a request, then I remembered to bring out my thanks first. There’s a lot to be thankful for in this season of life, things have gotten to a place of normalcy for Isaac and I-to the point where you think after describing a week’s glance to a friend, “gee, that’s a little boring.” I know not to fall prey to that as a father, nothing is ever truly “normal” as a parent haha.
One afternoon this last week, Isaac and Jess stopped by my work after school was out and Isaac proceeds to walk through the parking lot like a cowboy. “Why you walking like that bud?”
“My pockets are full of cuh-kahns.” (Pecans…y’all can fight over the “proper” pronunciation amongst yourselves…I’m going with this one from now on lol).
No joke, he had cuh-kahns alright, two pockets full. A tree on the edge of the playground at school has been dropping them steadily and Isaac had been loading up while at recess.
A day or so later after dinner, he whips open a small box to reveal his new treasure, “daddy can we open these?”
Being in a new house (okay…it’s been 3 months, but it still feels new), the kitchen is so well organized (not my gift, but the wife’s), I can’t locate a nut cracker or remember if we even had one haha.
To the toolbox!
I give Jess a c-clamp and I get out the pliers. We proceed to launch cuh-cahn shrapnel all over the room. We hear a hull rickashay off some metal, isaac ducks, he pops up still smiling (Jedi reflexes), it’s our kind of chaos.
“I got one!” Jess mastered the c-clamp and got a perfectly cracked one. I had been pinching my fingers with pliers, but this wasn’t my first rodeo, as Isaac and I used to do this at my parents house; with Jess this was the first time . All that pain and torment of cracking things open was worth it for what was inside. When Isaac sees pecans again, you know his pockets will be loaded and our little cowboy will be leaking them as he gets in the car at school.
When I looked at the pecan in this scenario, the meat inside holds such a high value to us that we will invest our time, energy and resources into a single nut to gain what’s inside (or we will pay the $$ for them already shelled haha).
My pinched finger, the first few pecans that obliterated by the c-clamp, that all gets forgotten, in a sense we are thankful for what we go through to gain what’s inside. If sometimes we could only see what lies inside the pecan of our situations, troubles, fears and heartaches.
It says in Hebrews 12:2, for the joy beset Him, he endured the cross. Jesus saw the cross as that un-cracked pecan, and said to Himself, “for joy I embrace this torture, because I want them (us).” It took all that He was, and then some, to do what He did. It wasn’t just those three days, but the preparation, looking into the eyes of the ones He healed, enduring his trade as a carpenter and praying to His father and perfecting His daily faith. He did that for you and I. The cross is symbol for what was done, not a PTSD reminder of what he had been through.
This takes me back to one of His earlier appearances in the book of Daniel.
In kids class at church, the funny sounding names of three believers, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego endured a great phenomenon called the fiery furnace. If you’re rusty on the story, it’s a great read in Daniel 3. We have a crazy king wanting everyone to bow to a statue of himself, and these three guys will only worship God and end up being thrown in a fiery furnace as a result. Only they didn’t burn…they walked right out and the king’s heart is changed as a result and he declares God as “the god.”
One day I read this story and scratched down like three pages of notes. There’s a lot of details in there, I don’t chew gum anymore because I overchew, and I think my mind runs the same way lol.
There’s a lot of credit to be mentioned to these guys (I mean they made the Bible), they were living in a Godless land, maintaining their relationship with God, but also being at peace and a good citizen. Their character was excellent enough, that the king hired them to work where they were, so obviously they were in a place of influence. Their belief in God was a asset for the king…until it became his liability.
We don’t ever see these guy’s faith deviate. The scriptures do not say, but I believe that they prayed for the kingdom that they lived in. They prayed for their king, on his behalf and as political climates go, they don’t just change overnight. As things would ever increase, this furnace gets thrown into the mix, and the leadership I’m sure got pretty fond of using it or at least threatening with it.
That had to wear on these guys minds daily. Yet they maintained.
One of my favorite quotes when they get brought before the king, “do not do this thing,” as if to warn the king out of a place of care. Who does that? Only someone who speaks from a place of confidence in their God that they could potentially be persecuted for. They were tied up and thrown in (brute forces were ordered in just for fun). Once inside-surprisingly they are seen walking inside this fire with a fourth guy (Jesus). They were called back out of the fire by the king, and they walked right out, not even smelling of smoke and they get promoted in their work and God is made “the god.”
So much awesomeness.
There are so many great details here, keep in mind, this is pre-crucifixion, pre-day of Pentecost and the Bible is still on scrolls down at the temple someplace else. The spirit of Lord was still not upon believers (only in certain instances), Jesus was just a prophesy and the Bible wasn’t widely distributed. In spite of all of that, S. M. & O. (Yeah I’m not spelling them out haha) still expected God to show up in their situation and didn’t try to dodge duck or dive when they were tied up or talk their way out of it (other than issuing a warning). God had destroyed whole cities that were deemed evil, yet His goodness would save a whole city if He only found a few faithful. The furnace that was meant to consume, God used to disintegrate what bound them and display His power to a king. That king was given the ability to see the men in the fire, call out above the flames and be heard (big fires are loud) and for S. M. O. to exit.
S. M. O. were in the presence of God in that furnace.
God wants to use the furnace that you’re in. He’s just as present at your lowest low as your highest high, He’s in the step that you are on. The difference between us and S. M. & O. is that we carry God’s indwelling spirit within us. When we accepted Christ as our savior, our spirit became alive unto God. We carry that with us, but I believe when we come into those furnace situations, God’s comfort and grace are available to us, He doesn’t abandon us.
You may feel bound by your situation, without a next move, but He’s gonna give you a pivot. In basketball (I’m not good at it…I went to camp in high school and got most improved even though I was worse afterwards lol), the player with the ball can pivot one foot without a dribble and change directions. God wants to pivot your situation, whether past or present.
The same spirit that is upon us is the one upon Christ in Luke 4:18…we are given the ability to proclaim our liberty and the liberty of others.
What the enemy (John 10:10) sent to do harm for my family, I’ve allowed and expected God to turn for our better.
It wasn’t always easy.
Many days we spent trying to crack that pecan. We pinched fingers. We broke things. But we didn’t give up.
Now, I’m at a place in life where I’m blessed to be able to proclaim that there will be no smell of smoke upon me and my son’s life and that grief and trauma will not haunt our path.
That gives me the ability to give thanks for what would normally harm me. I can give thanks for the sweet memories, for the 1997-2001 Honda CRV’s that I work on (my first wife’s was 1999).
I give thanks for her life. I give thanks for the opportunities that arose after her death. The hurting people I was able to share my grief with. The bond that was strengthened between my son and I.
We can do that because we possess creative thankfulness. We can be thankful for our furnace, for the cross.
That’s how death loses its sting.
What are you thankful for?
Let your light shine bright, JesusBright