I was watching Joyce Meyer as I do most mornings, and as usual her message was timely. I love bringing Joyce into my living room through my TV set to teach me from God’s word. She is straightforward as well as honest about her own flaws. Knowing that someone of her caliber is capable of the same transgressions that I am, makes it easier to trudge on. It keeps me from beating myself up too badly when I fall short of my own ambitions. As Joyce likes to say, “I’m not where I need to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”
In this morning’s message she talked about how to come through fire and not smell like smoke. She referred to the Biblical story in Daniel about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The three men were Daniel’s assistants, and worked for him under King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. The king made a golden statue ninety feet high and nine feet wide and required everyone in the nation to bow down and worship the statue when the king’s band played. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the idol, even when threatened with being thrown into the fiery furnace. They told the king that they weren’t worried about being thrown into to the furnace because they knew that God would deliver them. They told him that even if God didn’t deliver them they would never, under any circumstances worship or serve his gods or the golden statue. King Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage and he commanded that the furnace be heated up seven times hotter than normal. He called some of the strongest men in his army and ordered them to bind up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego tight with ropes and throw them into the furnace. The furnace was so hot that flames leapt out and burned up the king’s soldiers as they were throwing the men in. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego fell bound into the roaring flames. I’m going to quote what happened next from Daniel 4:24-27
But suddenly, as he was watching, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers. “Didn’t we throw three men into the furnace?”
“Yes,” they said. “We did indeed Your Majesty.”
“Well look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. I see four men unbound, walking around in the fire, and they aren’t even hurt by the flames! And the fourth looks like a god.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the open door of the flaming furnace and yelled, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God! Come out! Come here!” So they stepped out of the fire.
Then the princes, governors, captains, and counselors crowed around them and saw that the fire hadn’t touched them- not a hair on their heads was singed; their coats were unscorched, and they didn’t even smell like smoke.
It’s a wonderful story of God’s power to take care of those who worship only Him. Jesus was right there in that fiery furnace with them, as the fourth man attests. When I look back on my life I find that the hotter the furnace of trouble is, the more I need to lean on God, and the more apparent His power in my life becomes. I found that it was during life’s biggest trials that I became stronger, more trusting, and faithful.
The quick fix is what we all want these days. It would have been a lot easier on me if once I turned my life back over to Christ Tommy got sober right away. But that’s not the way God planned it. I endured almost another four years of living with my alcoholic husband who hardly breathed a sober breath. The smell of Jack Daniels oozed from his pores. I hung my head off of my side of the bed at night so the smell wouldn’t be so suffocating. I prayed constantly and sometimes even screamed at God at the top of my lungs, “How much more of this do you expect to take?”
Eventually, through my Al-Anon meetings, Joyce Meyer tapes and books, and my Bible, I learned to truly let go and let God. I stopped trying to change my husband, for the most part. Let’s face it, I’m a woman, and we women are always hoping to change something in our spouses. I decided to make the changes in myself that God was showing me I needed to make. I got my mind off of my husband and accepted the fact that only God could change him.
In time I came through the furnace but I can’t say that I didn’t even smell like smoke. I continue to smell a little smoky once in a while when my old demons pop up to the surface. I don’t know if anyone puts codependency behind them permanently. At least I know it hasn’t worked that way for me. I kicked it to the curb, but sometimes I forget and let my foot off of its throat. I’ll say or do something that I shouldn’t, and I see the old me that I’m not real crazy about. I repent and ask for forgiveness from God as well as others I may have hurt. Then I get on with my life. I don’t beat myself up and lose sleep for days anymore. I know I’m a work in progress. I strive to be a better me and when the trials bring out something in me that I don’t like I know what I need to work on. God brings conviction but he never brings condemnation.
So how do you come through the fire and not smell like smoke? You lean on, trust in and rely on God. Pray for His help and believe that He will work even bad things out for your good. He’s always done it for me and I know he wants to do it for you. You only need to ask, and to believe.
If your fiery furnace is an alcoholic spouse and you’d like someone to talk to sign up for a free 45 minute session of codependency coaching. I’m here to help. My book Born Again in a Biker Bar shares my story. What God got me and my husband through is nothing short of miraculous.