The Story: The Fire Shirt
"But I see four men walking around in the fire," the king replied. "None of them is tied up or harmed, and the fourth one looks like a god." Daniel 3:25
“Another in the Fire”
There’s a grace when the heart is under fire
Another way when the walls are closing in
And when I look at the space between
Where I used to be and this reckoning
I know I will never be alone
There was another in the fire
Standing next to me
There was another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
Of how I’ve been set free
There is a cross that bears the burden
Where another died for me
By: Hillsong Music
The Fire shirt was birthed from the story of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego in the beginning of the book of Daniel. These three men refused to bow down to the golden calf which King Nebuchadnezzar had declared to be holy. By doing so, they signed their own death. These men, taken captive from their land and now enslaved in Babylon, had no rank or significance, no hope of being given grace and forgiveness from the king’s edict. But they knew which God they served and bowing to a golden calf was unacceptable. The three men were thrown into a fiery furnace, a pit so hot that the soldiers ordered to toss them into the fire pit were burned to death upon their delivery of the men. The three friends fell into the fire, an angry king waited and watched (as if this were a fun sport), and then he swiftly stood up and stated, “Weren’t there three men we threw into the fire?...I see four men walking around...None of them is tied up or harmed, and the fourth one looks like a god.” The three men were spared. Who do you think the fourth man was that saved them in the fire?
Their story is a miracle, and we love hearing stories of God doing the miraculous, don’t we? It makes our hearts swell and hope grow. It makes us feel as if our God is a really, really loving God. “See,” we tell ourselves, “God saved them. They lived out their faith, faced death, and they were saved. That’s what happens if you love and serve God.” But, what about when that isn’t what happens? What about when the three friends burn to death in the fire and God doesn’t show up like we wanted Him to? What then? Is our God still loving then?
This shirt has a special significance to me, Amanda, the mom. This shirt reminds me of when God didn’t show up in the furnace how I envisioned He should. Death arrived instead. There I stood, on a Sunday in church, singing my whole frame into the song “Another in the Fire” by Hillsong, with my left arm wrapped firmly around my dear friend’s waist, my right arm raised to Heaven, my lungs belting out lyrics, tears streaming down my face, my spirit screaming for a miracle. My friend’s sister, a mama to 5 under 14 and a good pastor’s wife, was filled with tumors taking over her body, pressing on her spine, filling her organs, causing radiating pain minute after minute. Her sister was dying; apart from a miracle, her sister would die. So a miracle we proclaimed. A miracle we believed in.
“God, surely you won’t take a mom away from her son who is not yet 5? Surely not.”
“God, certainly you won’t silence the spirit of this feisty preacher’s wife who breaks all the molds set before her?”
“God, God, God, are you listening?”
“God, Hello? Is the miracle coming?”
“God, Jesus, time is running out.”
“Jehovah Rapha, Your touch is needed NOW.”
“Father, Abba, we are here worshipping in the hospital. Do you see us? Do you see her?!? Jesus, she is laying here. Hands trying to be outstretched amidst cords & wires & pain, worshipping You. Lord, don’t you see her abdomen ballooned with tumors? Don’t you see her eyes closed, lips murmuring praises even in all of her suffering? Jesus, do you SEE THIS? God, we are in the furnace. We are in the fire! We are on fire, Lord, burning up. WHERE ARE YOU?”
And then, she died. With my dear friend at her side, a loving family surrounding, hope-filled music playing, a husband weeping, and she was gone. Is our God still loving now?
And the answer is a harder one to murmur, to whisper, to force to our lips, but, yes; we declare yes. Still yes. Always yes. God didn’t show up the way we wanted. Nope, He did not. We may never know why. It does not make sense in our humanely-eyes, but, in the words of my friend’s now-deceased sister, “He is still GOOD. He is still GOD.” When I think about how unfair her death seems and when I picture her in a hospital room, body too weak to move yet arms outstretched in worship, I am faced with a choice. Do I choose to focus on her outstretched arms and wounded body, or do I choose to focus on His? His arms were outstretched once too. His voice called into the emptiness, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” His prayer asked for the cup to pass from him. Yet, He understood that Thy will must supersede my will. And, He died. He died and faced Hell, the eternal fire, for three days. He died carrying our sins, our pain, on His perfect frame.
And then, He rose. And then, He defeated death. And then, the promise came: no more could any, any, any earthly thing-cancer, accident, heart-attack, murder, virus-hold us back from an eternity with Him. Death was defeated. Death is defeated. The fire may touch our bodies, but it will not last. God is still loving; Jesus is evidence of that. A Father who turned His back on His dying child, given for me, given for you. He knows pain. He knows loss. He knows all of the evils that come into our worlds. Is our God still loving? Yes, yes, yes He is. It is through the fire that our faith is forged. How will you face the fire in your life? Will you still choose to love the God that doesn’t show up in the way we want? This will always be the question to those of us who call Him our Loving Savior.
“ In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
~1 Peter 1:6-7