Dwelling In The Crucible

I was reading an article earlier today about a man who ate a ghost pepper. Apparently, taking up the challenge to eat these death peppers is all the rage these days. For him, it wasn’t the actual pepper, but a ghost pepper sauce put on something he was eating… what he ate really wasn’t important, because once he got hit with the power of the pepper he walked into the fires of hell. He tried everything to assuage the agony he was feeling, to no avail. Hours later in the emergency room, doctors were repairing a tear in his esophagus that actually could have been fatal. The article talked about the things he did wrong that exacerbated the pain, and that he should have used milk or something to help, but others “attempting the challenge” say that doesn’t even help… you just have to wait for the pain to go away on its own, and hope you don’t die in the process…

This post is not to encourage you to stay away from ghost pepper challenges (although, if that’s what you get from it, I’d say you are gaining in wisdom, young Skywalker…)

I was also reading about three young men: Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael. Most people have no idea of who they are, outside of their 15 minutes of fame. To their credit, their 15 minutes of fame were not in the spotlight, amidst flashbulbs and adoring fans… the screaming was probably more horror, and the flashes were fires of hell… they entered the challenge, not of their own doing. They were given their own version of the ghost pepper, being thrown into a firepit, intended to punish them for not bowing down to a self indulgent king. These three? You guessed it… Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Ghost pepper hell is supposed to last for about 30 minutes. 30 minutes isn’t that bad. I mean, most people can take 30 minutes of anything… treadmills, bad tv, easy listening music… Time, however takes on a very different characteristic when you are thrown into the crucible. 30 minutes can feel like 30 years. I’m sure for this man, each extended second of pain was a lifetime, and for Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, being thrown into the pit that could have killed them anyway, but no… King Neb had to put ghost pepper sauce onto the fire (aka, turning it up 7 times hotter than normal) was not something they were thinking, “hey no problem… we’ll just wait it out and see what happens”.

This man eating the burger with ghost pepper sauce thought he was going to die. Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael knew they were going to die. It was all a matter of time (again,  that 4 letter word, time) before it all happened. Time stops in the crucible… all you have is the presence of the fire, of the pain, of your imminent death.

So, what do you do when you find yourself in the crucible? When no amount of liquid can quench the hellfire, and when it is so hot that it torches even those that put you in it? Well, for Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, their success in the crucible started long before they ever go there:

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” – Daniel 3:16-18

For them, their 15 minutes of fame came because of a consistency of their character. They were put in the situation for doing what they always did, and for refusing to do what was unnatural for them. They knew who they worshipped, and that was not going to change. I have heard of people living through hurricanes or floods who lost everything. When asked what they were going to do next, they didn’t hesitate: “I’m going to rebuild here. I was born and raised here, and I’m going to die here”. Hananiah Azariah and Mishael were not looking for fame or for something new. They were not only content to do what they had always done, their life depended upon it. So, they would rather die doing what they knew what was right for them, than live with something that would not give them life and meaning.

The man with the ghost pepper sauce tried to quench it. Glass after glass of water, and it only got hotter, as if to say, “You’re gonna try to put me out? I’ll show you!” Research says that if you do get one of these, water will only carry the pain further, so, word to the wise, as they say…

Our friends’ words were like water on a ghost pepper to King Neb. He lost it, cranked up the heat and threw them in. Even the guys throwing them into the firepit got torched alive. That’s a lot to see, to take in and to evaluate when you are trying to find the good in your situation. Our guys didn’t fixate on that though. They kept their focus on their faith. So, what they saw in their spirits before the pit, they were able to see with their eyes in the pit:

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” – Daniel 3:24-25

It’s as if God was telling them, “I know you are in the midst of a struggle… the worst struggle you have ever dealt with, but don’t look at that… I’m here with you… look at Me”. Mind you, they could still see the fire, still feel the heat, still had the memory of seeing the guards die from what they were experiencing.

Seconds and minutes passed… how much longer would they have to be in it? The answer was not given in time, but in perspective. God was basically saying, “I’m the same in the crucible as I am out of it. I’m the same in good situations and in bad. Where you trusted me before, you can trust me again.” It’s so easy to say when you are “reading it on paper”. The workout comes when you are believing it while the fire is licking your toes.

When Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael came out, they didn’t capitalize on their status as conquerors of the crucible. No self help books, no tours with Oprah, no Dancing with the Stars… they disappear from the scene, like cowboys riding off into the sunset. Really, we don’t know what happened to them, and that’s not the point. Their story is inspiring and encouraging enough… at least enough while you are in the crucible.

Notable Notables

You may wonder why I use the original names of these guys. Part of it comes from my love of names (check out my post, “What’s in a Name” for more on this). There was an attempt to redefine who they were by King Neb by renaming them, but they weren’t having it. I also think their story is more special when you know the meaning of their names:

  • Hananiah means “Yahweh is gracious”
  • Azariah means “Yahweh has helped”
  • Mishael means “Who is like God?”

So, here are three guys put into a bad situation, brought through it by a gracious God who helps… and helps in a big way. Who is like that?

I thought about posting a notable about the ghost pepper challenge, but personally I find it ridiculous, and don’t want to promote it. Rather, I find the power of the earth fascinating, and to see people investigate it boggles my mind. Check out this video of a team getting up and close to a different type of crucible: the lava lake of a volcano

 

featured picture courtesy of Diario Critico Venezuela, originally posted on Flickr

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