The Beauty of Fire

The damage in East Tennessee is heartbreaking. So many places destroyed that have become beloved landmarks to many people. Our own Amy Ford grew up in the area and her mother still resides there. It has undoubtedly been particularly hard for her to watch from a distance. The pictures shared recently have revealed devastation on such a grand level that it is difficult to comprehend.

Consider the other side of the story… Fire is a part of the natural regeneration of the forest system. It is the beginning of the next generation of huge trees that one day cover the mountains. Even as the fires burn, heat from the fire bursts open cones full of seeds that have been waiting to be released for years. Millions of those seeds are dumped on the forest floor and within a month, several of them will pop through the soil and new seedlings will appear.

In 30 to 40 years, the hikers in the Smoky Mountains will walk through trees so tall and strong that they’ll never imagine the forest was once destroyed by fire. It will be a story that “old folks” share with those hikers. But it will no longer be noticeable to the uniformed eye of those who were around during the fires of 2016.

There is a beautiful analogy in this story. Fires will always come. In your life, there will be fires. And you have two choices in how you respond. You can focus on the pain and allow the fire to destroy you. And if that is what you choose, it will destroy you. Or, you can use the fire to cleanse your life and start fresh. And if that is what you choose, you will grow stronger than ever before.

James wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2–4, ESV). The testing of our faith helps us grow. Very rarely is that testing comfortable or convenient. It is typically painful and difficult. And yet, like the fire in the forest, it leads to growth. It helps provide a better “you.”

The wise man said, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting… Sorrow is better than laughter… The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning…” (Ecclesiastes 7:2–4). It is better to suffer than it is to succeed.

That statement doesn’t fit into the common way of thinking. And yet, pain is good. Fire is a benefit. Struggling is a help. But that only happens when pain, suffering, and fire are seen for the good they provide and not the negative. Focus on the beauty of the fire.