Finding God’s Familiar Face in the Fire

The air took on an apocalyptic crimson hue due to the wildfires ravaging entire towns.  Just thirty minutes from my home the fires were raging and blanketing the air with smoke, so the decision to seek out cleaner air was made. Our home is outside of the evacuation zone, but the hazardous air and coughing from our youngest children brought on a feeling I had never encountered. I cannot imagine the terror of those who faced the flames themselves, as I had the time to logically piece together a plan with my husband. With a baby and two school-age children, I set off at dusk, readying myself for the three hours across the mountains to my parents’ home.

The mountain pass bordered three counties with active evacuations and dipped into the corner of a level 2 “be ready to leave immediately” area. I anxiously prayed as I drove past each interstate exit crowded with people leaving their homes, unsure of when they may be able to return, or what would be left when they did.

Winding up the mountain through tunnels of evergreens, each turn was more obscured by haze and ash than the last. Areas where we would normally stop were completely blacked out, in hopes that new fires would not be sparked. In the dark stretch with few drivers and no cell signal, I finally ran out of words. When I got quiet enough to stop “worry praying” or rehearsing my fears to the Lord, an entirely different viewpoint of my journey through the smoke emerged.

Though shrouded, every corner of the road was familiar because I had driven it so many times. I’d  driven over in good weather, singing with the windows down, driving to college. There were Christmas drives to see the snow, even once trying to outrun a blizzard. In the dark, light, snow, ice, and now smoke I traced that well known road. Now in the midst of utter darkness, though I couldn’t lift the ash or sort out a solution, I knew the road reflexively. 

How, I wondered, could anyone attempt this journey in the dark without a deep knowledge of the way the two lane highway twists and turns?  In our lives are we prepared to go with Jesus even when all seems dark and murky? Do the people of God respond any differently than the rest of the world when life goes crazy and the worst-case scenario happens?

Thirty minutes from my home are piles of ash that were the homes of my neighbors. Already among the ashes I have heard stories of God’s faithfulness. Both stories of those who prayed and the fire turned at the edge of their property line, and of those who prayed and all was lost. I was deeply moved by the story Bruce Cuff shared on his Facebook page along with pictures of what used to be his home, (Emphasis added)

“We were able to go out up to our “pile of rubble” yesterday, that was our house… We are excited for what the Lord will do through us as we deal with this tragedy. We love you all. God is good and His mercy endures forever. As we enter this new adventure in our lives, please continue to pray that the Lord would be glorified through us. He wants ALL MEN (and women) to come to Him.”

I don’t know Bruce, though I know members of his family. But he sounds like someone who has spent time learning the word and the ways of Jesus. Studying the character of the creator God, and tracing out his goodness in every situation. Yes, even this situation. I want to be like that. I want to be the one waiting for the faithfulness of God to be seen and known. The one that knows the darkness will disperse and the light will come.

God invites us to know him and his character so fully, that when the dark times come we are assured of who He is even when though we may be full of fear. It’s the repetition that brings us near. Just like my infant son traces my face as he falls asleep, we are invited to trace every line of God’s goodness. 

We may encounter Him through a Bible study (at least when we could have those easily) and not realize how it will apply later on. We pray when we feel like it and when we don’t and write down the things we’re learning. We sing songs when we are experiencing joy so that when dark times come the tune is already there. In the dark, it may feel that we are grasping toward hope, but if we have traced out God’s character we will be met with trust and peace. 

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love.” Psalm 103:8 

That doesn’t mean we are happy about the brokenness of our world. Scriptures look different through the lens of suffering. Nevertheless, He is true, and the hope we have in him proves true through the struggle far more than in the times of ease. The dark shows us the mercy and compassion of Jesus in a way that is deeper and firmer than ever expected.

 “Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! I say, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in him.” Lamentations 3:22-25.

Father, today, I am praying for all of us in need of mercy that never ends. For those who feel like they are about to give up, may they experience the strong love of Jesus.  You, Lord, are enough, no matter the circumstances. Lord, help us put our hope in you alone. ~ Amen

Holly Hawes writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. She is 30-something and has been married to Josh since 2010. She is Mom to a teenager by adoption, a child she’ll meet in heaven and often “bonus kids” via foster care. She loves creativity, the PNW, books, flowers, and sharing Jesus with hearts that need him.

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