The following article was written by Renee Dugan, a full time staff member of Spirit & Truth Fellowship Int’l.
In the late fall of 2016, arsonists set ablaze a wildfire in the Smokey Mountains near Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg that burned hundreds of acres, took several lives, destroyed many homes and businesses and threatened countless more. All told, it placed a severe strain on a beautiful region that relies heavily on tourist traffic to thrive. At the advent of Christmas, a time of celebration and cheer, many were picking apart rubble rather than presents, trying to piece together a new life instead of a new gadget, and sifting through the ashes like newly-fallen snow.
Even those not living in the region were affected. Not long after the fires began to burn, family friends informed us that they had lost vacation homes to the blaze—beautiful real estate they’d poured blood, sweat, tears, and money into following different tips for young adults, in the interest of reaping income back from renting them out. Months of loving labor, gone up in smoke.
When fire burns through our lives, it leaves more than an acrid smell and a heap of ashes behind. Not all of us will face the horrors of arson or accidental fires, but in the grand scheme of things, we all get burned. Loss, tragedy, sickness, death, hardships, and suffering are all infernos we’re forced to confront in some way or another, and they never leave us unscathed. When you’re standing blistered and scorched on the other side of the heat, it’s difficult to see it as a blessing.
When the news hit about our friends’ lost properties, I was suddenly reminded of a movie I absolutely loved as a kid (actually, I still love it)—The Lion King 2. The villain’s grand scheme in the movie is set off by none other than arson, sweeping through King Simba’s lands and nearly killing his daughter. She’s saved, of course, but it’s all part of the villain’s scheme; her own son, Kovu, the adopted prodigy of the first movie’s infamous Uncle Scar, uses the rescue of the princess to slip into the king’s good graces in an attempt to trap and kill him.
As the movie proceeds, hitting all the notes of mistrust flowering into affection, blossoming into love, Simba takes his daughter’s suitor into the fire-torn fields to tell him the story of Scar’s evildoing in the first movie. As the tale settles in with Kovu—the truth about the killer who raised him—the lesson emerges about the darkness in himself that he must overcome. His own personal fire to confront. Simba tells him, “Fire is a killer. Sometimes, what’s left behind can grow better than the generation before. If given the chance.” And he reveals, with a brush of his paw, the new growth springing up from the ashes.
In the times when we’re faced with the fires of life, it’s difficult to imagine them as anything other than merciless thieves. But there is a fire that comes from the hand of God—one that will test the very foundations our lives are built on, and the durability of the works we have done, for good or for bad. Someday, we all face fire; and when we pass through it on the Day of Judgement, we’ll be left standing on the other side as soil enriched by the nitrous of the flames, all of the darkness stripped from our bones. What grows back will be greater than what was before; the pain of the fire will fade as God, in His mercy, gives us the chance to grow.
The next time you’re faced with the fires of this world, with the heat against your face and underneath your skin, remember that you will emerge on the other side. You will face the aftermath. And in spite of everything, you can regrow—with the help of a powerful and mighty God, perhaps even better than before.