Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. (Daniel 3:19-26 NIV)
Do you remember as a child how we were taught to survive a fire? When I was in the third-grade, I remember a fireman dressed in his full firefighter’s attire visiting our class to discuss fire safety. He explained a number of things to us as we sat quiet and wide-eyed at his stories and instructions. As he concluded his talk he said “Remember kids, if you are ever caught in a fire you need to get down low and crawl to safety. Do not try to walk out or the fumes from the fire could overtake you.” To this day that statement has remained etched in my memory.
Fire is a powerful force. It can be useful but it can be very dangerous as well. A fire is not something to be taken lightly even if it seems small and harmless. Depending on its location, a fire can quickly spread out of control and bring a disaster. Carefully controlled, a fire can be used to purge and refine.
This month marks eleven years of a season in which I went through a “fire” in my health. On September 12, 2006, I sat in a doctor’s office in Chicago and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Honestly, I do not remember much about the doctor’s visit that day because as soon as I heard the “C” word, I think I tuned the doctor out. The day I was given the diagnosis, God spoke to my heart and told me he was going to heal me and to not be afraid. He also said he was going to use the hands of a surgeon, medication, and radiation to perform this healing. I know as sure as I am sitting here that God could have just spoken a word over my situation and cancer could have been gone! But I also knew His ways were the best way regardless of what I would have preferred so I purposed in my heart to trust him in spite of all the frightening questions that raced through my mind.
God never takes us through a trial without preparing us for it. Sometimes things happen that seem to blindside us, but they never blindside God. When we look back, we realize his hand of protection and comfort was in fact, there all along. When the Lord assured me that I would be healed, he also told me that he would take me through a “refiner’s fire” in the process of my healing. He also assured me I did not have to fear the fire because it was not for my demise but to refine me and that I would come out stronger in the end. On the day of the diagnosis, the Lord took me to the book of Daniel in the Bible and literally parked me in the third chapter for months. I mean that is all I was able to read because each time I read that chapter, I gleaned yet another precious nugget of truth that I would need for my journey. Day after day I read (and re-read) the story of the three Hebrew children and their fiery trial. The Lord reminded me that just as he had been with those boys in the furnace, he was right there with me in the midst of the fire and all would be well in time.
My surgery took place on September 28, 2006, and for the most part was actually quite uneventful. It is amazing to think you can check into a hospital, have cancer taken out of your body and go home the following morning to resume your happy normal life. Well…that is not entirely true. The protocol was for me to have a radioactive ablation about six weeks following the surgery. The purpose of the ablation was to burn out any possible remaining cancer cells. The recovery time leading up to the radiation and the period following the ablation was going to be far worse than I ever expected. I had no idea I was about to embark on the most difficult and frightening season of my life in my struggle to regain my strength and my health. I do not think I was ever so sick or so weak as I was in the six-month period that followed the surgery. Prior to the ablation, it was necessary to have my body reach a status where there was no thyroid function. Thus the reason for the six-week wait on the ablation. Unfortunately, no thyroid function translates to a basic shutdown of your body’s ability to function on any level. Many days it was all I could do to crawl out of bed, shower quickly and collapse back into my bed totally exhausted at that minor effort. I could not sleep, eat, or think clearly. I felt as if I had fallen into a deep fog and I was operating at slow motion speed. I was forced to quit doing anything that required cognitive thinking such as driving or even something as simple as paying bills. Yes, I was in the midst of a fierce firestorm and all I could do was cling to God’s promise of healing.
I have found that it is in the most desperate times, I have felt the presence of God to be the strongest. I know he is always with me but it is when the winds blow the hardest and the waves are the highest that I find his presence to be almost tangible. One particular night I was at my peak worst. It seemed that every horrific symptom was being magnified. The enemy of my soul was all too ready that night to taunt me, trying to make me believe that God had truly abandoned me. I paced my living room floor crying, praying, and begging God to take the cup from me. I clutched my Bible like a drowning person grabbing onto a lifesaver in the ocean. Suddenly out of nowhere, I felt a peace that began to invade the room. In that moment the Lord spoke these words: “Worship me.Worship wins the war.” That night I learned a whole level of worship. I learned to worship God not “because of” but “in spite of” my circumstances!
By the grace of God, countless prayers and the loving care and support of my family, I finally came out of the fire. As I said before, I know that God could have healed me instantly and it would have been to his glory. Instead, he took me through a fire but he never left me. The things he revealed to me in the fire, I know I would not have learned with an instant healing. The bottom line is… he healed me! Every year since 2006, I have gone back for follow-up tests from my doctors. I just had my complete work up within the past few weeks again. Scans, ultrasounds, lab work….clean. Over the years, my doctors have said more than once that the results are so good it was almost like the cancer was never there! So I praise my God for keeping his word to me and I give him the glory for his amazing faithfulness. To this day I keep the final doctor’s report clearing me of cancer tucked within the pages of Daniel 3 in my Bible to serve as a reminder to me that no matter how hot things can get at times, no fire is greater than my Savior!
I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. (Psalm 118:17 NIV)
This post is just a small part of the entire journey on going through the Refiner’s fire eleven years ago. In my soon upcoming book, Nuggets from the Heart, I have devoted an entire chapter to the story of my battle with thyroid cancer. I hope you will be able to read the full account sometime in the future. It is a testimony of his love, mercy, and grace which I would love to share in more depth with my readers. You can order your copy of my book by clicking this link.
Now, my friends, I ask you this question. Are you facing a fire of some kind in your life? Do you smell smoke and find your heart is trembling as you view the size of the flames ahead? FEAR NOT beloved. Hit the floor and start worshipping God. Your Savior is in the furnace with you. Now grasp this thought. When he shows up in the fire beside you, you won’t have to crawl out…you will walk out! He is faithful and the fire has a purpose. Trust him and keep going. He will bring you through in time and don’t be surprised if when the battle is over, you won’t even smell of smoke! And those remaining ashes that the fire leaves? Well, he has a plan for those as well. He has promised to give you beauty for ashes. All glory to God!
…when you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (Isaiah 43:2-3 NIV)
PS: Is there a time when you felt like God brought you through the “fire?” Please feel free to share a testimony. Do you need prayer as you face a “fire” right now? It would be my privilege to take your need to the Father. Leave your comments below. God bless you friends.