AFTER THE FIRES
November 17, 2017
Thank God for being at work in trials and suffering. Praise Him whether you are in plenty or in want, whether well fed or hungry. Pray for the people of California to find Jesus in the midst of loss.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Pet 5:10)
“…[M]y in-laws once lost their few possessions in a flood that submerged the tree house they built and lived in on an Oregon communal property. They have mostly laughed about this, only wishing sometimes they had retrieved more than one washed-out wedding photo.
But two weeks ago, early Monday morning, a fire consumed more than four decades of my in-laws’ possessions. Their house, built with their own hands, was one of nearly 7,700 homes and buildings that burned in Northern California’s unprecedented wildfires. Like many others, they had minutes to grab important documents and photo albums….
A day later, my mother-in-law spent the afternoon searching through rubble. She returned weary but eager to show me one find: her mother’s porcelain Christmas ornaments, faded and still dusted in ash.
This struck me as a picture of grace. At Christmas most of us decorate trees. As Christians, we do this not randomly but in celebration of God’s merciful plan for redemption—a Son come to earth to die for sinners, the just for the unjust, making good the destruction sin has wrought. Yet, how often do I sing “Amazing Grace” without amazement, blinded by earthly comforts and my perceived self-sufficiency. This is why author Iain Murray calls trials, afflictions, and illnesses “medicinal,” for that is often what it takes to lead us to God….
For now, we and our kids will miss the stories by my in-laws’ wood stove, canning fruit in their kitchen, science and art projects at their table—also the setting for Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving dinner spreads. My daughter will miss dancing in my mother-in-law’s garage, converted into a ballet studio that served many young dancers. They do plan to rebuild.
In flood and now in fire, though, my in-laws point to God’s merciful goodness and the promise of eternal blessings. The fire consumed a temporal “earthly dwelling,” but as the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians, “we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Indeed, we have this legacy from my in-laws and as believers. It is worth much more than material possessions….
Soon these black landscapes will sprout anew, and burnt rubble will be bulldozed away—another picture of grace. For now, they still confront us with raw reality. In our home, this has sparked conversations, like how this experience has revealed our complacency. It is easy to sing hymns but hard to see our great need, our wretched hearts.
In our area, the earth groaned, and fires consumed many of our comforts. Last Sunday my father-in-law stood before our small congregation, still wearing the same pants and shoes he wore the morning of the fire and sifting through his house’s ashen remains. I couldn’t help but think the flood prepared them for fire…. “(Excerpted from WORLD MAGAZINE , by Mary Jackson.)