❝When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.❞ Isaiah 43:2
Reflection by Stan Smith
Fire and water … flame and flood … warming and refreshing … burnt and drowned.
These are words that occur to me as I reflect on this verse from Isaiah. Fire and water are two of the four classical elements that also include earth and air. They are critical to our survival, but just as every rose has its thorn, these two elements can make life pretty tough for us.
No wonder Isaiah and countless other authors, songwriters, and artists have used fire and water to help them communicate the trials and struggles we have in life. One of my favorite songwriters and recording artists is James Taylor. When I was a boy, his hit song “Fire and Rain” topped the charts and still moves listeners, young and old, today. The chorus is a fine example of a modern usage of fire and water and their presence in our lives:
“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain,
I’ve see sunny days that I thought would never end.
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.
But I always thought that I’d see you again.”
Can you relate to that? I mean, it’s a cleverly written lyric with a haunting tune, but perhaps it’s deeper than that? Even those who have lived long enough to understand that there will be good and bad days in this life are still often surprised at the twists and turns that appear from nowhere. Taylor’s lyric reminds us, “you never know.”
Isaiah understood that too, and he makes no apologies for, as my students say, “just keepin’ it real.” Life is difficult and there’s no escaping the fire or water. Isaiah reminds us, though, that even when the waters are deep and cold, when rushing rivers that must be crossed divide the path we are traveling on, when fiery flames threaten to melt our will and burn our passion for life to nothing but ash, we have hope.
We enjoy the presence of a God who travels alongside us as guide, protector, refuge, and counselor who will not allow us to be abandoned. You see, he whose coming we celebrate at this special time of year has seen the worst of fire and rain—and he is here, among us, to stay.
We will see him again.