Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire
There is a scene in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit where Bilbo Baggins escapes from danger only to find himself in more danger. With the help of a mysterious ring he stumbled upon in the dark and gloomy caves under the Misty Mountains, Bilbo escapes from the slimy creature Gollum and makes his way out by slipping undetected through a regiment of Goblins. As chance would have it, he found his friends almost immediately and they set off on their adventure once again.
As they begin to descend a mountain slope, the rocks give way and they slide to the bottom of the slope. A grove of trees stops their slide, but all the noise alerted a pack of wolves. Within moments, the wolves were upon them and Bilbo and the dwarves were about to be eaten. In this moment of terror, Bilbo asks Gandalf the wizard, “What shall we do, what shall we do?” Then Bilbo said, “Escaping goblins to be caught by wolves!” Tolkien, the narrator, then says, “This became a proverb, though we now say ‘out of the frying-pan into the fire’ in the same sort of uncomfortable situations.” Bilbo had escaped Gollum and goblins only to find himself surrounded by hungry wolves. He was out of the frying-pan but he was in the fire!
As I read this, I could not help but think how this describes so much of our everyday experience. We find ourselves in the middle of all kinds of challenges, both small and large, and many times it seems that as soon as we get through one battle, we find ourselves right in the middle of another one. We jump out of the frying-pan only to find that we are still in the fire!
In light of this reality, is there anything to help us as we jump from frying-pan to fire? Yes, there is. There are promises in the word of God that can sustain our faith and strengthen our sanity in times of continual trial. For example, the Lord says through the prophet Isaiah, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isa. 43:2).
Why are God’s people not drowned by the torrents of water and the flames of fire? Because the Lord says, “I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (v. 1). And, “You are precious in his eyes, and honored, and I love you” (v. 4). And, “Fear not, for I am with you” (v. 5). We can walk through water and fire with patience, poise, and courage because we know that we belong to God, he loves us, and he is never going to leave us.
There is another promise in Isaiah 43 that can help us. It is a foreshadowing of what God will do for his people through Christ. Verse 4b, “I give men in exchange for you, peoples in exchange for your life.” The Lord has saved his people by exchanging the life of his Son for their life. He can be trusted in the fire because he sent his Son through the fire in order to redeem us.
A God who willingly entered into the pain and suffering of this world in order to save us from eternal pain and suffering in the next world can be trusted in every circumstance. He doesn’t promise to remove suffering from our lives. And we cannot understand why the flood comes in waves sometimes. But we can trust in our God who has redeemed us, called us, honored us, and loved us through the precious blood of his Son.
Interestingly, Bilbo and his friends were saved from the wolves by the “Lord of the Eagles” and his flock of giant birds who swooped in and scooped them out of the trees before the wolves and goblins could devour them. Bilbo and his friends were rescued by something greater than themselves. They did nothing to deserve it or earn it. But nonetheless, the eagles came at just the right time to save them from the fire. May God turn our eyes upward so that we might see the salvation that he has worked for us in Christ.
In the Fire, With You,