Several summers ago, I was taking my daughter to her art class less than a mile from my home when I first noticed thick smoke and ash coming down from the sky. My husband and I had just moved to a beautiful mountain town in Northern, CA about nine months prior and I had never seen anything like this. My daughter’s art teacher, who had lived in the area for over 30 years said to me, “Get a few bags together and be ready for a possible evacuation.” A fire was burning in the canyon below us. If the wind shifted toward our neighborhood it would be there in minutes!
Fear came flooding in like rain on a stormy day. I wasn’t prepared for this! I hurried home to call my husband and gather our important documents, but I was scatter brained contemplating what to do next. Have you ever felt like that? A sudden situation arises like an unexpected layoff, a startling diagnosis or a call from the school principal and with the blink of an eye you are facing some of life’s toughest moments.
For Californian’s, fire is a reality we have to learn to live with. In life, we too, have to accept that challenging times are certain to come. No one is immune from them. Pastor Rick Warren once said, “You are either in the middle of a trial, just finishing a trial or getting ready to enter a trial.” Everyone will have difficult and tough moments. Even Jesus promised that we will have trouble (John 16:33). So, the question isn’t if hard times will come, but when they do, are we prepared for them?
Luckily that day the wind was in our favor and the fire never reached our community. But the event served as a wake-up call that quickly and without warning fire can come, and we need to be prepared. Our local fire department reassured us that emergency preparedness is essential and that it can make the difference between life or death and losing our home or it withstanding an event. Though we don’t know exactly what the future holds, being proactive is our greatest defense to withstand an emergency. Being prepared will make us ready to handle any situation with courage instead of reacting in fear.
The same “preparedness” principle applies to our lives. Situations like financial hardships, loss of a job, illness, a broken marriage or news of the death of a loved one…a pandemic can feel like we’re stepping into the fire of life. However, just like my little mountain town preparing for the inevitable fires, we too can equip ourselves to face the infernos of life. The key is spiritual preparedness.
Being spiritually prepared will give us the strength and courage to weather storms and walk through the fires of life. It’s the most important preparation work we can do.
When I think of spiritual preparedness Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who literally encountered blazing flames are the first to come to mind. I can’t imagine the fearful thoughts that might have washed over them as they refused to obey Nebuchadnezzar’s command to bow down and worship him (Daniel 3:4-6). They weren’t scatter brained like me unsure of what to do next. But instead, they confidently acted with courage…you could say they were Chickening IN and trusting in God who had the power to deliver them.
Stop and imagine for a moment…put yourself in their shoes. Would you have displayed the same courage? Why were they willing to endure such grave circumstances with confidence and faithful assurance? Could it be that they were not caught off guard by this crisis, but rather prepared…spiritually prepared for it? What can we learn about spiritual preparedness from them?
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s spiritual preparedness began when they were youths. Mom’s, we can take great delight in knowing that bringing our children up in the Lord matters! They not only had a solid knowledge of scripture and a rich prayer life, but they remembered the wonderful things God had done in the past (Daniel 3:17). In addition, they had each other. No doubt the strength of their friendship enabled them to withstand Nebuchadnezzar’s demand. These three men also displayed unwavering faith…the kind of faith that doesn’t happen by accident but with intention.
I’ve always admired people in the Bible who were willing to follow God during the most difficult of times. I realized during the fire scare that being prepared is vital and that if I want to act with the courage of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego I need not only mentally and physically prepare, but spiritually prepare. I had to ask myself these important questions:
- How well do I know scripture because knowing scripture is the #1 source of knowing God and His power.
- Do I spend time everyday praying because prayer is my #1 way to communicate with God.
- Do I take time to recall the answered prayers and good things God has done for me? Do I regularly thank God? Because recalling God’s goodness is the #1 way to grow my faith and trust in Him.
- Do I invest in community and authentic relationships because investing in friendships now is the #1 way to ensure that someone will be there to walk through the fire with me.
That day when the fire threat suddenly came, I didn’t like the feeling of not being prepared. The situation was scary but also my lack of preparation added additional fear. Can you recall a situation that you didn’t feel prepared for but wished you had been? Addressing the questions above can help us recognize if we have work to do. Sure, it is true that all the preparation in the world may not eliminate the feeling of fear. But by taking action now, before the loss of a job, an accident or the betrayal of a loved one, we can remove reactionary fear from the driver’s seat and replace our fear with trust in God. Only God can truly make us ready for what lies ahead, and when we trust in Him and believe He has the power to help us we can be prepared to face our toughest moments.