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  • Writer's pictureLaura Kae

Freedom: found in the fire

I understand the belly of the whale. When I am in it, I know why I am in it. God said, “North.” I headed south. And then God used a really big “mouth” and “belly” to deliver me from the consequences of my choice and get me back on the right track. There is nothing pleasant about the belly of the whale. It really sucks, but I know why I am in it.

I don’t understand the fiery furnace. When I am in the fiery furnace, I cry because I don’t understand what I have done to get into it. I can’t count the number of people over the last couple months who have begged me not to think I have done something wrong to get to where I am today. They tell me that I am a blessing not a burden and that I have done everything I could to follow Christ and it isn’t my fault where that has led me. And I keep wondering, “If I haven’t done anything wrong, then why am I the one being punished?” Some people say asking, “Why?” isn’t a good idea.

Sometime in the last few months, I randomly opened my Bible and started reading in a passage that God has been using to greatly encourage me during this time. This doesn’t happen to me very often. My Bible has many bookmarks in it, and I open it with purpose to the place where whatever plan I currently have for Bible reading and study has me. This time was different, and I opened to the middle of Daniel 3. The first paragraph I read was Daniel’s friends telling Nebuchadnezzar that they would not bow down before his idol.

I learned some things that day. For many years, one of the core verses in my life has been from Isaiah 43, “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.” On the screen of my phone it says, “When you pass through the fire, you will not be burned.” because apparently even after all this time, I haven’t actually memorized the verse correctly.

I noticed as I read the rest of the story that the furnace was made seven times hotter before they were thrown into it. I knew I was in the middle of being thrown into a really hot fire – one that was much hotter than the fire that had been purifying me over the last six years. God seemed to speak to me that the temperature was going to escalate to previously unexperienced proportions. But it was going to be okay because I noticed something else as I read: there was a fourth Person in the fire.

I don’t know why I had never used this as a great source of comfort before. I have been in intense furnaces for several years now. How had I never drawn strength from the fact that God was with me in the fire?

I have asked other questions like, “When they were in the fire, did it feel hot?” I have drawn comfort that they came out unscathed, but I hadn’t been drawing comfort from the fact that God was most visibly and tangibly present in the lives of these three friends while they were in the fire. To the best of our knowledge from recorded history, never again would these three friends experience God’s tangible presence in their lives on earth. Never again would they be so close to Him.

I was greatly comforted as I moved on to studying what I had intended to study. I kept this in my heart. Yes, the furnace was now seven times hotter, but I was not to forget that He was with me.

Some time later (My life seems timeless right now due to the furnace. My sense of time is very askew.), I would open again to Daniel 3. Now a bookmark resided there to help me remember to come back. I read the story again, starting at the same place as the time before. This time it struck me that the friends were not in the furnace because they had done something wrong. They were in the furnace because they had done something right. Over and over again, I have questioned and begged God, “All I have done is follow You the best I could with where I was, how could it have led here? If there is something I need to repent of that is putting me in this furnace, tell me so I can repent.” Over and over again, I have been met with assurance from God and spiritual counselors begging me to know that I have done nothing wrong in this area (except that which I have already confessed to and repented of). Well, God doesn’t beg me; He just gives me peace and assurance that the righteous response to my situation is not to worship man but Him alone.

This time my takeaway from reading was that I, like the friends, was in the fiery furnace because I refused to commit idolatry. Man wanted something from me that I could not give them. God keeps asking me not to respond to them but only Him.

What I think was a few weeks later, I opened to the story again. This time God had another precious gem to show me. You see, freedom for the friends didn’t come after Nebuchadnezzar took them out of the furnace. Freedom was found in the fire. They were miraculously unharmed after they were removed from the fire, but even more spectacularly that freedom began in the fire.

So many times I think I will be free when “breakthrough” comes in my life. When the fire is over, then I will be free. But God is not like that, He gives me freedom while the fire is so hot that I can hardly breathe. When everyone around me including myself agrees that deliverance from the furnace is impossible, improbable and nothing to expect, then God frees me in the fire and I walk with Him unbound and unharmed. I have not yet come home to Him, but He has made His home with me – in the fire.

I have started to laugh like Sarah at God’s promises. The screensaver of my phone assures me that when this fire is over, I will not be burnt. Every time I see it, peace and quietness come into my spirit and soul but my mind laughs, “Whatever God! Even You can’t fix this!” I am not really proud of my laughter, but I no longer believe. I confess my unbelief to God. “It’s impossible. It’s improbable. It’s not worth expecting. But know You cannot lie. I know Your command leads to eternal life, so I will follow You. I will trust You. I don’t understand ‘why’. At this point Your promises seem to mock me instead of being a firm foundation that I can build my life on. But I know You cannot lie, so I will follow You.”

Essentially, I am currently standing firmly on the promises of God, laughing.

Have you experienced a time when God made His home with you in the fiery furnace? Have you ever found freedom in the fire?

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