Smoke from a Distant Fire

Much of this August, like last, our state was shrouded in smoke. This pervasive blanket of ick turns the sun red; obscures line of sight; gives an eerie light to every waking hour; keeps people inside on the warmest days of summer; and motivates those with existing respiratory problems to wear surgical masks. It’s weird and disturbing and smells simply gross.


There are types of smoke (wood stove, campfire, BBQ grill) that are cheerful and mood-enhancing. This is not that.

“Howevuh…” it is simply collateral damage to the real, big bugaboo: forest fires raging in Canada and Eastern Washington that resulted in our miserable environment. I kept slapping myself mentally, reminding myself that there were hundreds of thousands of folks in those areas dealing with an actual problem, as opposed to our inconvenience.

I’ve been pondering how this so often defines my world. Jesus talks about it in Matthew 6, saying “do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” I, friends, borrow trouble for a living. I can’t tell you how many minutes, hours, and days I allow to be obscured, to feel the light dimmed, to keep me from experiencing all the joy my Father has for me… all because I sense smoke from a distant fire. That distant fire might be what’s happening to others (as in the real situation of the forest fires) but more likely, it’s my imagination conjuring up what could happen to me and mine in the future. The smoke from that distant fire dims, chokes, and inhibits my productivity, my desire to bless others, and my joy. It looks gross, and it certainly doesn’t pass the smell test. 

This smoke might look like a lot of things:

  • fear for what could happen to my people (this is the most pervasive)
  • fear for finances
  • worry about how my actions might be perceived by others

What is common to all these worries is that I can wallow in them before anything ever really happens. Letting myself choke on the distant fire, the remote possibility of trouble, is not just foolish but is self-destructive. God knew what He was doing (imagine that, a Designer understanding His workmanship) when He in Jesus encouraged us not to be anxious about tomorrow.

Either wind or rain can help dispel the smoke of a distant fire. It may be a bit too cute to say that the Spirit of Jesus is referred to in Scripture as like a rushing wind, and of course we know that our Jesus is our Living Water. Moses speaks to Israel in Deuteronomy 32:

“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak,
    and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
May my teaching drop as the rain,
    my speech distill as the dew,
like gentle rain upon the tender grass,
    and like showers upon the herb.
For I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
    ascribe greatness to our God!

Proclaiming and hearing the truth about God’s greatness and His faithful love to me is like rain to my soul. Choosing to pour down truth on my situation has actually begun to make a difference as I am tempted to experience fear and borrow trouble.

Literal smoke coating the air is not pleasant, but I can do nothing about it. Only God can send the wind and rain necessary to make it exit stage left. True, too, of my heart. Only God can send His wind and rain to clear the air, help me breathe, and bring me joy. All I have to do is make room for Him to do His thing.

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