God often performs His greatest work through the crucible of our suffering. As Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell stepped out of the men’s room near his office in the Pentagon, the building was slammed by a Boeing 757. A massive explosion hurled him to the floor and a fireball engulfed him. He could not rise to his feet, and believed he would die. Seconds later, an overhead fire sprinkler sprayed cooling relief on Brian’s charred wounds.

Burns had seared 61% of Brian’s body—41% of them were third-degree (his arms and hands); the rest were second-degree, scorching much of his face, ears, legs, and back. Inhaled smoke and jet-fuel vapors clogged his lungs. Heavily sedated and clinging to life, Brian didn’t open his eyes for two days. The next 12 weeks were the longest of his 40 years. Infection gnawed away at the remaining flesh on both arms. Brian endured excruciating dunkings in chlorine and iodine baths while nurses scrubbed away layers of decayed skin and infected tissue. He required nearly 20 surgeries to cleanse wounds and graft on fresh skin.

10 years after the terror attack, Brian is not focusing on what he lost through his painful ordeal, but on what he has gained. He said, “My living through all this is one of God’s many miracles. . . .This testing by fire, so to speak, has strengthened our marriage and faith.”

Each of us must pass through the flames of adversity during our tenure on Earth. Our fiery trials may either be physical or emotional. Our bodies may be consumed with disease, or our souls may be burdened with grief, disappointment, and despair. Regardless of the experience, it hurts to go through the fire. But there is something precious about the searing heat of trials: God uses it to refine our character in a way no natural phenomenon could do.

If you feel like you’re under fire today, remember that God is standing by. Painful as the heat may be, He will not allow it to consume you. It will accomplish nothing less than His perfect will intends for you.

God’s people have no assurances that . . . God will provide some sort of running commentary on the meaning of each day’s allotment of confusion, boredom, pain, or achievement. It is no great matter where we are, provided we see that the Lord has placed us there, and that He is with us. — John Newton

Devotional by Pastor Jim Scudder, Jr.