Igniting a Fire in our Hearts
Updated: Nov 16, 2018
As we watch the fires ravage the land in California and hear the heartbreaking stories of people losing their homes and lives, we are solemnly reminded that humans are no match against the power of nature and the frailty of life. This loss and tragedy is even intensified by the fact that one of the communities that is dealing with the fires had to deal with a massacre only days prior that left 12 people dead.
They are saying the California fires are the worst in history. It seems that's a term we hear a lot these days. The constant bombardment of tragedy upon tragedy, whether it be another mass shooting, a record-breaking natural disaster, or the ongoing divisiveness in our nation can leave one feeling overwhelmed and hopeless.
And just as the fires don't discriminate between destroying a trailer park or a celebrities' mansion, death and despair don't discriminate either. We are reminded of this by some of the more notable suicides that have occurred throughout the years such as Kate Spade, Aaron Hernandez, Robin Williams and others.
All of these individuals by society's standards had achieved success. They were all making millions, famous and had reached the top of the pinnacle in their career. And yet even with all of that, all three of these individuals couldn't seem to shake the demons of their soul. Somewhere in the dark of the night the heaviness of despair overtook them and they thought the only way of escape from this shadow of depression was death. Why did they choose death over life?
While we don't know their inner struggle, I would say it's safe to say that they didn't face any challenges that others haven't faced. I don't say this in a condemning way, but merely to point out that how we see our lives truly boils down to two basics in life - purpose and perspective.
These three tragic losses of life prove to us that the "riches" of the world don't guarantee us happiness and fulfillment. If they did we would never find any rich and famous people depressed and suicidal, but history has proven otherwise, which brings me back to the fires in California.
We only need to spend 15 minutes reading the daily news to know that we are living in tumultuous times like none other, and I would say it's certainly a contributor to the increase in depression in America. But I would say the biggest crisis that we are facing in America today is not natural disasters, it's not gun violence or political divisiveness - it is a heart issue. Where are our hearts?
Our hearts have strayed away from our God-given purpose and whenever we stray away from our purpose it taints our perspective. And without purpose and a skewed perspective, life holds little meaning and death can seem like a viable option.
One thing is sure, we are all going to die. None of us escape death. The only question is when and what are you doing with your life until the day you die? Life truly is a gift, but I know sometimes it's hard to see that when you wake up every day and just feel like you're going through the motions.
I was jogging the other day with someone from my running group and asked how he was doing. "How much time do you have?" he said half jokingly. "I'm struggling." I knew he had gone through a divorce in the past year and he had shared with me before about his struggle with alcoholism. It was part of the reason for his divorce and the precursor to his new obsession with running marathons and triathlons.
"I just feel so lonely sometimes. I mean I'm around people all the time, but....it's just like I'm going through the motions. I feel like something is missing. I need purpose...…," he said while jogging beside me. He didn't need to finish. "I understand what you're saying," I said.
I understood why this older Caucasian man who was in great health, sociable and smiled all the time felt so empty , in the same way I understood why the younger, African-American man I had spoke to in the gym some weeks prior felt the same thing.
He was working out beside me when the Lord began to give me a vision of this man climbing up a mountain. He was climbing and climbing, and yet he never reached the top, but with each climb he was getting more and more tired. In the vision he was saying, "Lord, I'm so tired. I can't do this anymore."
I stepped out on faith and told the man the vision of him that I saw. His eyes teared up. "Man, I was literally just praying to God and I told Him, 'I can't do this anymore. I am so tired.' For the last seven years I've just felt so disconnected, like I can't find where I fit, like where is my purpose?" Here yet again, was a man from outer appearances; young, strong and in shape, that one would have thought all was well, but inside was struggling immensely.
Two different men from different generations and different ethnicities - both struggling to find connection and purpose. I understood them both.
Money, age, race or social status do not negate us from the innate desire for purpose and connection that was interwoven into our very being by our Creator. Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that we were created with a purpose in mind. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart: I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
We can build castles on mountains. We can amass great wealth, fame and success, but nothing will fill the longing in our soul for purpose, and knowing our purpose can only come from knowing the One who created us. Until we find that purpose and begin living each day to fulfill it, we will forever be searching for that something to fill that void in our hearts that can only come from Him.
We also should not be surprised or fall into despair over all the shaking that we see going on in the world, for all of this was foretold centuries ago in Matthew 24.
v. 4 ".....'And what will be the sign of Your coming, and the end of age?' And Jesus answered and said to them: 'Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ', and will deceive many.
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows."
v. 10 "And many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved."
All this would be pretty despairing if it weren't for the ending. Those who endure to the end shall be saved. This is good news! It means it ain't over yet. It means that you still have purpose here and on the other side of all this turmoil is something great. It means you can't die yet. It means you can't give up. You still have work to do here.
Oftentimes, when tragedies happen people say it's God's judgment, but I see all the shaking that's happening as God's mercy. And while none of us will ever fully understand why bad things happen I do know this, that He is a merciful God and it's never His intention that people should perish. He doesn't take joy in the destruction of His creation and He's always looking to redeem us until we take our last breath here on earth.
What has more value? Houses and created things that are temporal or souls that are eternal? If you are a good parent you use discipline not as a form to hurt or punish your child, but in order to correct them so that something harmful doesn't happen to them.
If your child brings home an F or if you find out they are engaging in risky sexual behavior or doing drugs you more than likely will end up grounding them, seeking out some type of intervention services or take away some of their privileges. Will your child like this? No. Will they think you are being unfair? Yes. Are you being mean? No.
You are willing to take away something temporal from your child in order to save their life and improve their character. You are willing to have your child mad at you in order to make them a better person because you love them.
And God is no different with His children. When He sees that our perspective about the purpose and meaning for our lives has strayed from His original intent, He is willing to allow some temporal things to be taken from us so that we can regain a perspective of what really matters in life. Sometimes it takes losing everything in order for us to remember that all of us this stuff is just that - stuff. The only thing that is going to last beyond this life is our eternal souls - not our cars, houses or accolades.
When the tragedies of life hit us it reminds us how quickly all of the material gains we amassed can leave us. So if we are not living for something bigger than ourselves, all of our time here on earth will be like these fires in California, at the end of our dash there will be nothing standing.
"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.
If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames." - 1 Corinthians 3:11-15
If we are not serving other people by living out our God-given purpose then we will go through life feeling disconnected and as though we are just going through the motions. Without purpose life is meaningless, but with purpose it is like a fire in our hearts.
One of the interesting things about fire is that it only takes a hot ember to start a flame. I remember when I was younger some family friends of ours cleaned out their fireplace and placed the ashes in a bag in their basement with the intention of throwing them out the next day.
Little did they know that while they were sleeping there were still hot embers simmering underneath the ash from the fire that had been put out days ago. To their horror they were awakened in the middle of the night to their home engulfed in flames. Fortunately they escaped, but their house was destroyed.
Sometimes our hearts are like these embers. The tragedies and disappointments of life can put out our fire. Maybe it was an unexpected divorce, a loss of a job, an illness or a seemingly endless line of closed doors to your dream that has caused you to lose hope, and where once you had a flaming passion everything now seems dead.
And just as some in these California fires found themselves surrounded by walls of fire with no way to escape, there are many others who have felt for years that they have been walled in by the fires of life's trials. It's as if everywhere they turn they are faced with another battle with no way of escape from their turmoil.
But I am firm believer of Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." I believe that all these fiery trials going on so many people's lives is not to destroy us, but they are being permitted by our Father to clear the dead brush from our lives; to remove the things that hinder us from personal growth and from obtaining our full potential and purpose in life so that we can gain a proper perspective of what truly matters in life - people and our purpose.
If you feel like you've lost everything, whether it be material possessions, relationships, your passion for your dreams and life, or even your hope for your future; I'm here to tell you that all it takes to ignite the flame in your heart is an ember of hope.
And one of the best ways to ignite that flame is to reach out to others in need and ask yourself, "How can I begin building relationships with others by serving their needs through my gifts and talents given to me by God?"
As we begin to walk in our purpose and get the right perspective about the "losses" in our life, we will see that they aren't really losses, but opportunities to gain a new perspective about what truly is valuable in life - connecting, serving and loving other people.
If each of us would begin to allow our God-given purposes to burn within our hearts, before we knew it our embers would turn into flames that would cause other people's hearts to ignite with hope and purpose causing our land to be on fire with purpose, passion, hope and love.