We recently went back to the Fort Knox area for the first time since our son Johnathan (Jeb)’s memorial service. We visited his Taekwondo Master (where he earned his black belt), visited his youth group leader, we stayed with friends whose children and our boys were good friends and spent hours and hours playing and fellowshipping in the years we lived there, went to chapel where we often worshiped, and had a chance to go to the chiropractor. Everywhere we went, I saw Jeb. We had recent memories of Jeb, we had life with Jeb.
It’s funny how the mind works. So much of my grieving has been deep inside…where I can’t sleep, my hair is coming out in handfuls, I cracked a cap of my tooth in half gritting my teeth, I’ve lost over 30 pounds.
But externally, I seem fine. And searching through my heart, I’ve felt mostly “fine”. But during this trip, I didn’t feel “fine” at all. I felt despair, distraught, sad. The grief stayed present and forward almost from the moment we crossed the county line.
We saw the same chiropractor for eight years. Jeb was six the first time he adjusted him. The last time I’d seen him was at Jeb’s Memorial Service. He came in on his planned week off to see us because it was the only time while we were in town we had free.
He made eye contact with me and asked, “How are you?”
I didn’t want to say, “Fine.” Because, by this point, I wasn’t fine anymore. I wanted to escape back to the safe harbor of our new location where I could spend a day out and about and not see Jeb everywhere I went. My mind instantly flipped through the last year, with Gregg’s injuries and four surgeries since March, the horrible conditions of the home where my boys spent half of their lives, the financial destruction to our family caused by those horrible conditions, and then all of that culminating to the tragic and violent death of our 14-year-old.
I said, “I’m a little tired of being in the fire.”
I said it a little tongue in cheek, thinking of Isaiah 48:10, where God tells Israel that, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction (suffering).”
And then of course, 1 Peter 6-8, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love.”
I have certainly been grieved by various trials, and I have certainly been suffering.
He nodded and hugged me and kind of chuckled in a way that meant he understood my tongue-in-cheek reply.
But as time went on, and the days past since then, I have felt a very strong conviction from God that has me repenting of my little tongue-in-cheek-feeling-sorry-for-myself moment. Yes, Gregg and I – our family – have been through the fire. As Gregg is still wearing his brace that keeps his arm at 90 degrees so that further damage doesn’t occur to the tendons in his arm, and we’re living in a construction zone without even a ceiling in the kitchen and bare drywall everywhere as everything came to a standstill first with Jeb’s death then with Gregg’s two surgeries since then — it feels like we might still be in the fire.
But one morning as I was driving to work and just having a “peace be still” moment in the silence of the pre-dawn, it occurred to me that while Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (whose Hebrew names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) were thrown into the fire (that was seven-times hotter than normal and actually killed the guards who threw the men into the furnace) and the furious king intended for them to burn to death, they were not alone in the fire.
There was a fourth man in the furnace with them – a man who the Bible says, “…had the appearance like a son of the gods!” (Daniel 3:25)
Some say that was Yeshuah (Jesus) in the furnace with them. I believe that to be true. Yeshuah appears several times throughout the text of the Tanakh (Old Testament). Some say it was an angel much like who protected Daniel.
Either way, they survived the fire just as their friend Daniel survived the lion’s den.
Neither are we alone in the fire. Christ has promised us that, “In this world you will have trouble. But, take heart, I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33)
In Matthew 11:28-30, Yeshuah says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Ya’ll, the only way we have made it this far is because we’ve had to lean fully into Christ. We have had to relinquish all of the heavy burdens we’ve had to carry this year to Him. God has promised never to leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). If that is truth, and I know it is, then even in the midst of the fire, like the three Hebrew men who would not bow to the king because they served only one true God, then I know that He is with us, right next to us, in this fire.
It cannot consume us. We will come out of it on the other side, more refined than precious gold. I am no longer ready to be out of the fire. I am now ready to become everything God will have me to become in order to emerge from the fire victorious, more refined than the most precious of gold, and that the genuineness of my faith cannot falter for anything that this broken world can throw at it.