Hurt and pain. They are the unwelcome passengers on our road trip of life. After all, when you follow God, you are supposed to have life and life more abundant, right? So, what happens when you find yourself in the midst of a situation you perhaps created but can’t control? A situation that hurts you deeply?
You might be able to relate to the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were happily going on about their lives serving God and landed smack dab in the middle of a fiery furnace as a result. Much to everyone’s surprise, they were not burned up by the flames. In fact, they walked out of the furnace without a hair on their heads singed and didn’t even smell like smoke. Unimaginable!
We may not have been thrown into an actual furnace, but we have certainly walked through the fire. Maybe people we thought were friends stabbed us in the back. Maybe our marriages or relationships have been in trouble. Maybe people we’ve trusted have talked about us badly. Maybe we’ve been disappointed when something didn’t go our way. Maybe we’ve been hurt by situations beyond our control. Maybe our lives are currently filled with pain.
I wish I could say I have not smelled like smoke after walking through the fire. Instead, I’ve probably been pretty stinky. I smelled of smoke because I allowed the stink of situations, betrayal, or other people’s bad decisions to cling to me. I’ve allowed fear to overwhelm me, bitterness to overtake me, and hurt to hold me back. How about you?
Imagine coming home to a house filled with smoke. How would you begin to remove the smell of smoke from your home? According to the trustworthy world of Google, there are five simple steps to follow. Surprisingly, we can adopt these same five steps to remove the smell of smoke from our lives. After looking at these, we can maybe begin to remove the smell of smoke, and presence from our lives.
We may be hurt. But we do not need to be held down by our pain.
One time, I was tasked with making popcorn for my siblings during a movie night. Unfortunately, I blew past that very thin line between perfect popcorn and a burned mess. Not only was our snack ruined, but the whole basement smelled horrible. I unsuccessfully tried to fix the stench by spraying air freshener. The basement just smelled like flowery, burned popcorn. Yuck!
Instead of getting rid of a bad odor, air freshener simply tries to cover it up but often magnifies it. An odor eliminator is different; it doesn’t mask the smell or add to it. An odor eliminator completely absorbs the smell and removes it.
Many times, we may try to use an “air freshener” in our lives to mask the smell of smoke. We feel disappointment, hurt, fear, and anger. Instead of eliminating those negative emotions, we cover them up. We slap on a happy face, and we “fake it ‘til we make it.” We may look good on the outside, yet on the inside we are a mess. Yes, sometimes we need to walk by faith, not by sight, and move forward even when we don’t feel like it. We can’t keep that up for very long, though. Unless we let God work on our inside to get to the root of the issue, the smell of smoke will eventually overtake and consume us.
Thankfully, we have the ultimate odor eliminator readily available to us. The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
In order to eliminate the smell of smoke from our lives, we have to allow God to absorb those things we worry or fret about - those feelings which are keeping us overwhelmed, hurt, or angry.
Giving our cares to God doesn’t mean we give them to Him then take them back at the first opportunity. We have to let go completely and trust them to our Heavenly Father. Philippians 4:6-7 shows us how:
1. Don’t worry about anything.
2. Pray about everything.
3. Tell God what you need.
4. Thank Him for all He has done.
When we follow those actions, the peace of God shows up. His peace takes up residence in our hearts and minds and eliminates even the most stubborn smell of smoke from our lives.
Air purifiers remove contaminants from the air. To purify means to free from undesirable elements. When we walk through the fires of life, it is vital to refuse to allow our circumstances to contaminate our minds. It can be tempting to dwell on the negative things that have happened to us, to wallow in our hurt and disappointment. If we are not going to be held back by the hurt, we have to purify our minds, thoughts, hearts, words, and actions. That’s easy to say, but how do we actually accomplish this?
First, we recognize we are not fighting a battle of flesh and blood. It is impossible to use natural weapons to fight spiritual things. We must use the tools found in the Word of God to defeat the enemy that comes against us.
Is there a better time to buckle the belt of truth around your waist than when you’re in the midst of hurt? When in pain, it is helpful to take some time to sit down, examine scripture, journal what I know to be true about God, and contemplate what I know to be true about me. You might be surprised at the amount of clarity the Holy Spirit will give you when you’re searching God’s heart for that truth.
Second, we have to learn to take every thought captive and examine it to see whether it is from God or not. Paul encourages us to purify our minds by “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NKJV). We have to ask ourselves: Is this a thought that lines up with God’s Word? Is this something I should allow myself to think? If I continue to think on this, will it have a positive or negative result?
Philippians 4:8 gives us the standard for the only thoughts we should allow in our minds by fixing our “thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Any thought that doesn’t meet these criteria has to be removed quickly and replaced with one that does.
The purification process takes effort; it involves discipline and dependence. A huge step in healing will involve the purification of our minds, thoughts, hearts, words, and actions. Purification continues to grow our confidence and provide us with peace.
The enemy will always try to use people or situations in our lives to divert our attention. If we let it, the hurt we experience can take up residence in our hearts and minds, distracting us from fulfilling our God-given purpose.
In order to remove the smell of smoke from our lives, we may need more than an odor eliminator or air purifier. We may have to throw on some work gloves, pick up a scrub brush, and do some deep cleaning. 2 Corinthians 7:1 declares our need to cleanse ourselves and pursue holiness. The Message translation says, “Let’s make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let’s make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.”
It’s not a question of whether or not distractions will come. They will. When they do, we have to recognize them for what they are and choose not to let them knock us off course.
This spring, I walked through a particularly rough season. Truly, I was walking through the fire, and I was starting to reek like smoke. The final straw came when my car started acting funny, and it started on fire due to an oil leak while I was driving down the interstate. Apparently, some small hole had formed in a coolant line, and the head of the engine cracked, leaking oil everywhere. Insurance was not going to help, and I still had some money left on the loan. Absolutely perfect. At that moment, I realized the tactic of the enemy—to keep me focused on the wrong things. I could either take on the smell of more smoke and focus on the havoc from that little hose, or I could turn away from what I was experiencing and refocus on Jesus.
I wish I could say that I immediately took my eyes off what I was experiencing and put my eyes on Jesus. 1 John 1:9 NKJV says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But I didn’t do this. I wallowed in sadness and threw myself into my job. Eventually, I felt like I could go no further with this mindset of trying to do everything on my own. I repented for not trusting God in the midst of my circumstances, and He immediately cleansed my heart.
Is there an area in your life where you need to repent? If so, do it now. Let God’s forgiveness give your heart a deep clean.
I’m sure most guys are familiar with the smell of a group of dudes after a sporting event. If you aren’t, you could always join a gym and just walk into the locker room. The smell of sweat, dirt, unwashed clothes, and the one guy that doesn’t use deodorant hits your nose like a brick wall. Growing up, we were all taught to keep ourselves clean. But you might know how you smell after exerting yourself. What would happen if you didn’t clean up after that?
What would happen if we only showered once a week? We’d stink, right? The same is true for us spiritually.
Ephesians talks about how we can be washed and cleansed by God’s Word. By reading scripture often, we allow God’s words to penetrate our minds and permeate our hearts to keep us free from the smell of smoke.
The Word of God has a lot to say about the fiery furnaces we may walk through.
Overwhelmed by discouragement? “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NLT)
Overcome with sadness? “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 (NLT)
Feeling overwhelmed? “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.’” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)
Being attacked? “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:14 (NLT)
There is a scripture for everything we face. One practical way to wash yourself with the Word regularly is to find a few scriptures about the peace, joy, comfort, or love you need and write them in places you’ll see throughout the day. Throughout the day, read the cards to remind yourself of God’s goodness.
A few years ago, my family redecorated a room in the house my parents live in. There was a couch that was old and outdated, worn and ugly. So, we bought a cover to make the couch look reupholstered. Could a scrap of new fabric really revitalize that old sofa? When we finished fitting the cover, I was amazed at the transformation. It looked completely different, completely transformed. I couldn’t believe it was the same couch.
Sometimes after we have experienced a difficult situation, we might look in the mirror and not recognize ourselves. We see hearts marked by pain, bitterness, grief, and hurt. That’s when we know it’s time for a little reupholstering. We can look to God to trade our stony hearts for hearts like His.
God is ready and willing to make a mind-blowing trade, to reupholster our broken hearts. He will remove our stony, stubborn hearts and replace them with tender, responsive hearts. Isn’t that amazing?
We might think we can’t forgive, move on, or find true peace and rest. In our own strength, we can’t do any of these things. But when we let God trade our hard hearts for tender, responsive hearts, restoration can occur in our lives.
We are made in His image and His likeness, and we have His example and strength to help us overcome any situation in our lives. In order for this to occur, we have to make the exchange. He can’t reupholster our hearts unless we are willing to let go of the old and embrace the newness He offers. We have to be willing to exchange the bitterness, unforgiveness, and hurt which tries to hold us back from forgiveness, restoration, and peace.
Will you make that exchange today? All it takes is saying, “Dear God, I know in my own strength, I can do nothing. So today, I ask You to take my hard heart and make it new. Make my heart tender and responsive to Your Word and Your leading.”
““Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”
Ezekiel 36:25-27 NLT
If we have allowed past hurts to permeate our lives and leave us smelling like smoke, we now have the necessary tools to no longer be held back by them. We can also be assured that we will never have to go through the fire alone.
When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked through the fiery furnace, God didn’t just protect them; He got in that furnace with them and walked beside them every step of the way. The king was astonished there weren’t just three men in the fire, but he was amazed to see four men walking around unscathed. The fourth looked “like a god!” (Daniel 3:25)
When we walk through the fires of life, we can have confidence that no matter what we are experiencing, our God is walking right beside us, never leaving or forsaking us.
Fiery periods in life are inevitable. The Bible tells us to not be surprised when they come our way but, instead, rejoice when we experience them because those trials make us more like Jesus. He gives us the most perfect example to follow. With all He experienced, Jesus could have retained the smell of smoke. He was rejected, betrayed, doubted, and abused, but the Word says that His life was a sweet-smelling aroma to God. The same can be true for us. What we choose to fill ourselves with is what will come out in difficulty. Are you going to smell like bitter smoke? Or a pleasant smell to everyone around you?
In order for restoration to truly occur in our hearts, souls, and lives, we have to take our eyes off the hurt and instead focus on the Healer. Jesus can heal the heart that people broke. He can exchange the pain for peace, hurt for healing, and rejection for redemption. There is no heart so broken that Jesus cannot fix it. There is no life so shattered that He cannot restore it. There is no pain too great that He cannot turn into joy.
You may have experienced great hurt, but from this moment forward don’t glorify the pain. Instead, magnify the Savior. Jesus gave His life to set us free from everything that could hold us back. We can walk confidently, knowing we can overcome any obstacle that heads our way if only we lean on Him.
Post-Script: When I was editing this, I realized the impact of listening to Christian music while I was struggling in the spring. Nothing else got the focus off of my self-pity and back onto what God was doing quite like worshipping and meditating on the words of these songs. I’ll include a list of some of the most impactful songs I listened to.
Nate Smith is a college baseball and football coach, a husband, a father of 6 girls, grandpa to 3 granddaughters, a police chaplain, and has a passion to see men grow in Christ.
#girldad including granddaughter