By Chen Yan, China
Late one night in that spring, an urgent knocking on the gate woke my husband and me, and the voice of my neighbor living behind me rang out. I hurried to put on my clothes to answer the gate. On opening my door, I was shocked by what I saw. A great fire was blazing and one glowing ember after another was shooting into our yard, like a meteor shower. I wondered, “What’s up?”
I rushed into the yard, and found that the fire was spreading from the west. A sheet of flame was roaring and I didn’t know how many families were suffering from the fire. We lived near agricultural field and each family raised cattle, so everywhere were hay-ricks, cornstalk-ricks and corncob-ricks, which were so dry in springtime that they burned easily. The wind was so strong that night. Flames engulfed my neighbor’s garden in which were hay-ricks and cornstalk-ricks. The burning corn leaves were blown into my yard where stood cornstalk sheaves and a hay-rick. My relatives said that pile of hay must be saved or I would suffer great losses. Therefore, some of them stood around the hay-rick, some climbed on its top, and they all tried to stamp out fallen glowing embers as quickly as they could. Facing the intensity of such a big fire, no one knew when it would die down.
It was my first time seeing this sort of scene. Standing in my yard in bewilderment, I didn’t know what I should do and kept thinking, “It’s over. All I own—my house, barn, stable and cowshed—will disappear tonight. The fire is burning so fiercely. Who can keep it under?” Feelings of fear and desperation welled up in me; I felt that man was so small and powerless in the face of disaster. Also, hearing my neighbor’s yells of despair and fury was agonizing: I was afraid that the same misfortune would befall me at any time. At that time, I suddenly thought of the fire brigade. Why didn’t anyone call the fire brigade? Just then, someone said, “I have called the fire brigade. They will be here soon.” The news brought me hope and I expected that they would arrive earlier lest the fire burn my house later.
Glowing embers kept falling down into my yard. Seeing one of them exactly hit my erect cornstalks worried me terribly, but we could do nothing but let nature take its course because we were unable to climb up to stamp it out. I found my heart raced and leapt into my throat, terrified that the spark would set my yard on fire. In my pain and helplessness, I thought of God. I then hurriedly prayed to God in my heart: “O God! I feel so fearful right now. I don’t know how the fire might spread. I know You are the almighty God, and all things are in Your hands. The fire is also controlled by You. But I don’t have enough faith. Please keep my heart quiet in Your presence. I wish to entrust everything to You.” After praying, unknowingly I was not so scared but much calmer.
The great fire, however, continued to burn and the wind showed no signs of dropping anytime soon. The increasing glowing embers falling into my yard made me nervous again. I looked around every corner of my courtyard, for fear that I would miss a glowing ember and could not stamp it out in time. And I was eagerly expecting that the wind would go down so that glowing embers would not be blown into my courtyard and my possessions might survive the destruction. This was when I realized that I had only said I believed in God’s sovereignty yet in fact I didn’t truly entrust all I had to God. Then I remembered Job’s experience. Job was cleaned out by the robbery, his children were taken from him, and he was beset by illness, but he did not blame God. In the midst of that kind of environment, he still praised God. He knew that his property, his children and even his life were granted by God and taken away by God, and that he should obey God no matter how he suffered. This was the sense a person with a heart that was in awe of God should have. In the same way, weren’t all of my possessions also given by God? Without God’s blessing and grace, I wouldn’t possess these things. Now the fact that the circumstance came to me was God’s test for me. At the thought of this, I silently made a resolution: “No matter what happens, I wish to obey God’s arrangements just as Job had.” Then, I prayed to God, “O God! I don’t know how the fire might spread, but I believe that all these things are in Your hands. Whether my possessions will be burned is up to You. No matter how You arrange things, I am willing to obey You.” After I prayed, my heart felt incredibly peaceful and at ease, and all feelings of fear and terror were gone.
Just when the anxiety in my heart was eased, I heard that three fire trucks had been sent here but all had broken down on the way. I suddenly realized that such a circumstance was God’s examination of me; He wanted to see whether or not I could stand firm. Even though the fire trucks failed to arrive, I still believed that no one could decide when the fire would go out; it was only up to God. I once again entrusted the fire to God, and believed that whether or not my possessions would be burned, and whether I would live in poverty or wealth were under the sovereignty and predestination of God, that this was something that I had to experience, and that whatever God did was good. Then I heard the complaints about the fire trucks, but I felt quite secure and calm without fear.
Just then, a miracle happened. The wind suddenly shifted from west to north and blew toward the south moor. It relieved my tension in an instant and I felt incredibly excited. In joy, I held my shivering son to my chest and kept saying in my heart, “O God, thank You! Praise You! I know it was Your protection that kept my possessions from being destroyed.” I witnessed God’s wondrous deeds with my own eyes and felt that God was by my side.
Later on, the wind died down. The great fire burned for half the night. At sunrise, we clearly saw that several villagers’ haystacks were burned out. My western neighbor suffered the greatest damage, all his hay-ricks, cornstalk-ricks and corncob-ricks burned out, all his geese scorched to death and the glasses of his windows and doors all broken. However, though many glowing embers fell into my yard, none of them set fire to it.
Many villagers wondered at and talked about the fire, “It’s amazing! There are bunches of reed in Chen Yan’s western neighbor’s, which would normally ignite once they came into contact with sparks. However, so many glowing embers have fallen onto them, but they actually did not catch fire. Otherwise, the fire would certainly spread to Chen Yan’s. Then, Chen Yan’s would suffer. …” These words immediately awakened me and I thought, “My neighbor’s reeds didn’t catch fire. Wasn’t this exactly God’s wondrous deeds? His reeds were next to my yard wall. If they had ignited, the fire would have spread to my yard.” Some others also said, “The scene scared me. I thought that the fire was so fierce that it would storm through our village. Unexpectedly, it ceased to spread before reaching Chen Yan’s.” My neighbor living behind me said, “You were really blessed!” Hearing her words, I said quickly, “The blessing was from God.” At this time, I was very grateful to God in my heart.
Apart from feeling God’s care toward me, I also came to have some true knowledge of God’s authority and sovereignty.says, “His deed is everywhere, His power is everywhere, His wisdom is everywhere, and His authority is everywhere.” “Man’s heart and spirit are held in the hand of God, everything of his life is beheld in the eyes of God. Regardless of whether or not you believe this, any and all things, whether living or dead, will shift, change, renew, and disappear in accordance with God’s thoughts. Such is the way in which God presides over all things.” Through this experience, I truly appreciated that all things both alive and without life are in God’s hands and everything happens, develops, and changes with God’s thoughts. When I felt desperate and helpless in the fierce fire, God comforted my heart, allowing me to not feel panic any more but be able to quiet down, pray to Him and hand the matter over to Him. When my possessions were in the danger of being burned, God wondrously protected it through a change of wind so that a disaster that was inevitable in man’s eyes stepped aside in an instant. I truly felt that God’s authority is everywhere, God’s power is everywhere, there is no person and nothing that is not in God’s hands, and there is nothing that does not change with God’s thoughts.
God says, “I want each and every man to see that all I have done is right, and that all I have done is an expression of My disposition; it is not man’s doing, least of all nature, that brought forth mankind. On the contrary, it is I who nourish every living being in creation. … I am mankind’s only. I am mankind’s only hope and, even more, I am He on whom the existence of all mankind rests.” Only God can protect and care for us. Only by relying on God can we be strong in disaster and bravely face the difficult circumstances that befall us and moreover can we see God’s miraculous works during our experiences. I thought again of what had happened in the sudden fire. My house was in close proximity to my neighbor’s. If his reeds caught fire, then the consequences would be really unthinkable.
After this experience, there is still some lingering fear in my heart. At that unusual night, it was God protecting me that spared my possessions from the fire, and allowed me to feel the joy and the peace that came along with being with God. Thank God for loving me. Only God is our redemption and our support.
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