By Joy Haney
The young man lay charred, scorched, and blistered on the hospital bed, unable to move or talk because of the pain and extensive burns he had suffered. The inferno from which he had escaped was the wreck of an airplane. The torment of the fiery holocaust was indeed enough, but now he suffered with internal anguish, also. His fiancée had just walked into the room and placed her engagement ring between his toes without saying a word. As he lay upon his bed, seemingly with his future obliterated, all he could do was cry silently while tears ran down the blackened sides of his face.
You probably will not go through the physical suffering this young man endured, but if you live long enough you will be “burnt” by someone or a situation involving other people. When you look around, you see many people who get burnt daily. The high society Trump family had its very public burning. Even the bums in the gutter have their hurtful moments. Everyone, sooner or later, will feel the hot fires of humiliation, hurts, and the searing flame of injustice.
From the beginning of time, people have been burned and devastated because of disappointing and marred relationships. This includes inventors who were mocked and ostracized by “normal” society, and musicians who were not respected until many years after their death. Our very own President Abraham Lincoln was the target of much verbal abuse when he endeavored to free the slaves.
Biblical figures who were burned include Joseph, whose brothers rejected him; as well as David who was hated and persecuted by Saul. Judas burnt Jesus by betrayal. Steven tried to help people, but they did not understand him. The very ones he tried to help “burned” him by stoning him. Haman tried to burn Mordecai, and in doing so got burned himself. Abel was burnt by Cain, Hagar by Sarah, and Samson by Delilah.
Job was burnt by Satan. He was a very wealthy man in Bible days who lived in the land of Uz. He became involved in a contest that developed between God and Satan. He had sevens sons and three daughters and was considered to be the greatest man of the East.
All his riches did not keep Satan from trying to destroy him. God was having a meeting with the sons of God and Satan came also among them. “And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth?” (Job 1:7-8).
Can you imagine God and Satan talking about a man on the earth like that? They talked back and forth until Satan told God that Job only served Him because of all his riches. Satan then told God to put forth His hand and touch all that he had and Job would curse God. So God answered Satan with confidence by saying, “Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord” (Job 1:12).
Notice, God gave Satan power to work against Job. One of the things Satan used to try to hurt Job with was fire. “While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee” (Job 1:16).
The servant, not knowing of the conversation between God and the devil, called the fire that destroyed them the fire of God. God did not send the fire. He gave Satan the power to use the elements against Job. John 10:10 says, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Satan, who is the enemy of mankind, always comes to destroy. Every chance he can get he will try to break up marriages, bring depression, and cause rebellion in children. He only wants to kill, steal, and destroy. His fire always burns, demolishes, and consumes.
He plans his strategy well. He constantly looks for ways to make people as miserable as he is. He who was once the leader of music in heaven is now the leader of misery. He who lost his song is now the director of sorrow, tears, and agony.
He becomes like a black widow spider, weaving a web to ensnare all who are unaware of his presence. When he lures the unexpected into his trap, he then injects his poisonous substance. The poison flows through the mind developing into a searing, red-hot fire of destruction burning all things in its pathway. He loves to destroy relationships.
The enemy’s destructive fire can be likened also to the ant-lion. The ant-lion is a little dark-looking creature that makes a conical hole in the sand, and puts itself in the very center. It then buries itself completely out of sight except its jaws, which appear like a rusty needle waiting for its victim.
From time to time a little ant comes along seeking her food in her usual busy way. She will see the rim of the sandy hump and peer over to investigate. As she senses danger she will try to rush away, but it is always too late. The sand will roll from under her feet and cause her to go down to the bottom. It is then the jaws open like a pair of shears and clips off a leg. Every time the ant tries to get out the jaws of the ant-lion keep clipping until finally, all the ant’s legs are gone.
The ant-lion stays hidden the whole time until the ant gives up the struggle and the lion devours her. Then, with a flip of his tail, he throws the skin of the ant entirely out of the cup, and the trap is set for another victim.
That is the business of the enemy and his helpers. The good part of this story is that you are not helpless like the little red ant. Even though she tried to get out and was unable to, you are able to rise above the pit of despair that your burning caused you to sink into.
Fire has been a destructive force down through the ages. Thousands of acres of trees have been destroyed because of it. Homes, cities, automobiles, and countless lives are blackened and done away with because of fire. Blazing infernos caused by war bombs have destroyed the peace of nations, leaving in their aftermath ruin and rage.
The ashes of life that the first seven chapters of this book deal with relate to circumstances and relationships. The fires of anger, distrust, unfaithfulness, and rebellion can burn themselves deep into the heart and mind of those involved, causing great harm. The person that experiences a burning always feels the scalding scorch of blistering words and irate tempers.
The enemy’s fire is no respecter of persons. It rains on the just and the unjust. It comes unwelcomed and uninvited. Sometimes it comes when it is least expected. You are like the little ant, going about your business, when suddenly the earth of circumstances opens and you fall headlong into it. It is not on your schedule. You did not plan on it; it just came. You did not invite it. You were not even aware it was on its way. It just dropped in like a fiery bombshell exploding on top of your head, seemingly blowing your world apart.
It is like the story about a flock of hens at feeding time. They were all eating their corn when suddenly one hen began fluttering about wildly. She seemed to be attempting to swallow a large lizard. The other hens were gathering around her cackling loudly, also.
It was discovered that while the hen had evidently pecked at the lizard, the slimy, twisting creature had turned about and had the hen by the throat and would have choked her to death had not the observers intervened.
The very people with whom you are involved can at some point turn on you and grab you by the throat, as happened to the hen, with words or action that can cause you to feel like the very breath has been knocked out of you. This happened to Joseph in his association with his brothers. He did them no wrong, just excited jealousy in them, until they turned on him and tried to destroy him.
Life sometimes will extend to you a hurtful experience. You will try to be brave, swallow your pride, and hold your head up without showing your hurt. Many times it becomes too big for you to handle.
Tears become your partner. Your heart is in perpetual pain as if a knife was taking up residence there. You search your heart, mind, and soul for the answers, and yet the answers seem to mock you. The things that were familiar have now become strangers to you. Your world is turned upside-down by the ugliness of a relationship that has gone sour. Where once there was happiness and laughter, now there is sorrow and pain. How did it all happen? When did it all begin? Who was to blame? Could it have been avoided if things had been done differently? You search for answers that seem to hide behind corners. Solutions become evasive and tears expose the pain in your heart. As you look back at the experience you feel as if all is hopeless.
The story of the Portuguese coastal steamer explains how you feel. There were fifty-three crewmen, three hundred Portuguese troops, and two hundred Mozambique Africans aboard when they became grounded on a sandbar off East Africa during a storm. While rescue efforts were being made from the shore, fire broke out on the ship. The fire spread to the stores of ammunition and the whole ship exploded in flames. Many of the passengers jumped into the sea — only to be attacked by sharks. Those who did manage to make the shore were threatened by lions roaring in a nearby jungle.
You feel like the passengers on the boat. First the storm, then the fire, the explosion, the sharks, and the lions. You feel like you cannot win for losing, yet no one can make you lose but yourself. No man can put you down for a long period of time. Prisons, fires, broken relationships, and death cannot destroy your spirit, but you have to work at it. It is not easy to restore things that are lost, but it is possible to begin again without the ashes of bitterness in your mouth.
Henry W. Longfellow said it well in his poem, “Psalm of Life.”
Tell me not in mournful numbers,
“Life is but an empty dream!”
For the soul is dead that slumbers
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal,
“Dust thou art, to dust returnest,”
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Finds us farther than today.
Art is long, and time is fleeting,
And our hearts, tho stout and brave,
Still like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no future, however pleasant!
Let the dead past bury its dead!
Act — act in the living present!
Heart within and God o’erhead.
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate,
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.1
When the fire comes, determine in your heart that you are not going to let it destroy you. You will fight and win because you are not alone. Matthew Henry said, “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. Extremities are a warrant for importunities. A man at his wit’s end is not at his faith’s end.”2 The enemy cannot win against God. He never has and he never will. After the death of Jesus, where was the first place He went? He went to the enemy and demanded of him the keys to death. The grave could not keep Him. He said, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev. 1:18). Remember when you get burnt this is the kind of power you have on your side.
The above article, “The Enemy’s Fire” was written by Joy Haney. The article was excerpted from chapter one in Haney’s book, How to Forgive When It’s Hard to Forget.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.