“We went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.”
(Psalm 66:12, NIV)
Hopefully you have not had the experiences of being trapped in an inferno or of drowning. However, the psalmist here uses his amazing capacity for metaphor to capture the way we feel during adversity and suffering.
You’ve probably had an experience where there is an intense amount of pressure, things moving too fast, emotions reaching their breaking point, and a sense of chaos around you – seeing no way out, and gasping for relief, all the while aware of the incredible pain that can befall you. That is the “fire” that the psalmist is speaking of. Fire is traumatic, and can leave scars, both mental and physical.
A similarly traumatic experience is that of drowning. Contrary to popular belief, drowning is not a “peaceful” death. I know this for a fact, as I almost drowned off the coast of Thailand in 2013. As your feet grope for the ocean floor, and your arms struggle to keep you afloat, you start gasping for air; the ocean waves keep coming mercilessly, splashing water into your open mouth as you try to breathe. As you are choking and coughing the water out, your mind is racing, and the shore seems desperately far away. Your arms become heavy, like the water around you. And all the while, you are sinking. The speaker in the psalm uses the analogy of water to capture that sense of feeling burdened, that life is going to hit you relentlessly like the waves and then drag you down; your finances, your relationship, your job, your future – some or all of these, crashing against you, as you struggle just to breathe.
The times in life of “fire” and “water” can feel overwhelming – which is why we have God to take us through them. The speaker follows his depiction of fire and water by saying, “But you brought us to a place of abundance.” Notice that he does not say, “but you got us out” – instead, he describes something much greater. We don’t serve a God of “just enough”; we serve a God who gives us more. In addition to reassuring us that we will get through the times in life where we gasp for air, the verse tells us that a plenty, a bounty, awaits us. All we have to do is trust in God and speak our trust to him through our prayers.
The classic example of remaining faithful through “fire” is seen in the Book of Daniel. The book contains an instance of individuals literally coming into contact with fire, and living through it unscathed due to the power of their faith. The story involves three men – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – who are thrown into the blazing furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar for refusing to worship his gods. The furnace is heated to seven times its usual temperature, and is so hot that it actually kills the soldiers who are escorting the prisoners. But while the king watches, hoping for the three men to die, he sees a fourth man walking around in the furnace with the three offenders, who he realizes is a “son of the gods.” The king is so astonished that he releases the three unharmed men, and gives orders that they are to be promoted. Later in the book, Daniel himself is thrown into the lions’ den – not exactly fire, but just as deadly – and lives through it, untouched, due to his faith, and gains a new prosperity in the kingdom.
The psalm also says, “For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver” (Psalm 66:10, NIV). No one can say for sure where all the sufferings of life come from, but God uses these sufferings to make us better. It is true, though sometimes hard to accept, that the sufferings of life are the times where we grow – where we are “refined.” Of course, it’s great when things are easy, but we don’t become much stronger during those times. Just as the quality of silver is improved by putting it through the fire, so are we improved by going through periods of pain.
We can look at life as a process of getting to new levels. Sometimes the only way to get to those levels is by fighting through suffering and using our faith. Running away from suffering doesn’t work, but putting your faith and trust in God, and praising and thanking him, make you stronger and lead you to that “place of abundance.” As the psalmist says,
I was brought low, and he helped me.
Return unto thy rest, O my soul;
For the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.
(Psalm 116:6–7, KJV)
If you enjoyed this article, make sure to check out my new book, Passages for Inner Peace: Finding Joy and Comfort in the Psalms, available in paperback and e-book formats here.