The Thing about a Campfire

The thing about a campfire in the wilderness is that no matter how brightly it shines, it cannot turn the night into day. No matter how warm it is, it cannot change surrounding temperatures. No matter how high its flames flicker, it cannot eliminate potential predators outside its reach.

But a campfire in the wilderness can still mean the difference between life and death. It can’t change the circumstances in which it burns, but its presence is enough to stave off darkness and cold and to keep danger at bay.

This Advent season, the passages of the Bible that have meant the most to me have been campfire verses–ones about light entering into darkness. At first I was encouraged by them because of our own recent challenges. But this past week, our entire Lifelines family was shaken by a tragic plane crash that took the lives of three of our own–a husband and father along with two of his children, leaving behind a wife and two sons. As many have said, there are no words in the face of such a loss.

A few days ago, I read from Isaiah 9:2,6:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone…For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given…”

Earlier in chapter 8 that same child is called Immanuel, which means God with us. Saturday I read more about God-the-Light with us in Luke 1:78-79:

“…whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Tragic losses, cancer, and constant stories of brokenness in the media, not to mention the pride and fear in my own heart, confirm to me that we are truly living in a “land of deep darkness.”  We endure a night we can’t turn to day, no matter how hard we try.  Yet like a tiny flicker, God became a baby and grew into a man who would sit in darkness and in the shadow of death with us . The brilliance of a galaxy condensed into the flame on the end of a matchstick in the wilderness–sent to offer the warmth and light of a campfire now, and the promise that one day the sun will rise and dispel the darkness and cold for good.

I can’t help but think of our friends, grieving hard in the shadow of death. I don’t always know exactly how to pray, but today I pray that they will know and feel the presence and comfort of Immanuel–that He will be like a campfire in a night that feels impossibly endless, just with them, faithfully providing enough light and hope to stave off despair. I pray that he will guide their feet into the way of peace. They may not sense that settled peace for a long time–the pain may be so acute and deafening. But I pray that He would put their feet on the path that leads to peace, rather than trails that ultimately end in more pain.


Many of their closest friends and family from the lower 48 are making their way to Alaska to be with them as they grieve and celebrate the lives of husband and father, daughter and sister, son and brother. Will you pray for the coming days and weeks as they walk through this Advent season together? Pray that friends and family would know how to weep with those who weep. To be little campfires in the wilderness. If you feel compelled to do more, perhaps you’d consider standing with the family from afar by giving toward a college fund for the two oldest boys here. It can’t change the loss they’re living with, but it might add a little security and comfort to experience love expressed in a tangible way.

O come O come Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death’s dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee O Israel.

6 thoughts on “The Thing about a Campfire

  1. Yes! A campfire in the wilderness CAN mean the difference between life and death! What a powerful analogy-thank you for sharing it. My son left for heaven unexpectedly, suddenly and instantly in a motorcycle accident 31 months ago. It is a great wilderness. But those verses you mentioned and others are the fires that keep me warm enough to continue on this path toward peace. I pray your words are a balm to many hurting hearts this season. Bless you.


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