Secret #9: Spend Forty Days In The Fire

We must embrace pain and
burn it as fuel for our journey.

--Kenji Miyazawa

Spiritually fragile people see suffering as an enemy and they experience times of grief or depression as meaningless and useless periods of stagnation. Spiritually bullet-proof people understand that, without exception, periods of trial and suffering are also times of profound transformation and growth. They use these times “in the fire” as opportunities for spiritual refinement and this mindset strengthens and sustains them when the going gets tough.

The English poet William Cowper believed that “Grief is itself a medicine” and spiritually resilient people are aware of the “medicinal” properties of the suffering they endure as a result of the bullets that come their way. While no one looks forward to feeling grief, pain or depression, spiritually bullet-proof people believe that time spent “in the fire” fuels their spiritual progress.

Spiritually bullet-proof people
believe that time spent “in the fire”
fuels their spiritual progress.

This ability to find value in their suffering gives spiritually resilient people a real edge in life. You can give yourself a tremendous boost in resiliency if you are willing to see your times of trial as opportunities to turbo-charge your spiritual progress.

A Double Feature

Whether or not you realize it consciously, you are really living two lives simultaneously. One is the material existence that is visible to the world and the other is the inner life of your spirit—a private existence invisible to all but you. You may not have ever thought about yourself and your life in this way before but try to expand your sense of yourself to include both of these identities. It’s almost as if there are two movies running simultaneously in adjacent theatres—two different stories are unfolding at the same time and they are both about you! On one screen is the course of events and the cast of characters that make up the story line of your “real life.” It is a plot-driven film—lots of action. On the other screen is the story of your spirit’s evolution. This film captures your inner journey—it shows how far you’ve come as a spiritual being. Your growth in patience, faith and love is documented, as is every development of your spirit. Now, most people focus all their attention on the plot-driven movie because there’s so much going on and it looks very exciting. Spiritually resilient people know that the real action is happening in the theater next door! If you want to take any hit and come out on top, realize that you really have a kind of double identity. Your outer life and your inner life are unfolding side by side, and sometimes when the worst stuff is happening on the screen in theater #1, the very best stuff is going on in theater #2 next door. Spiritually bullet-proof people believe that success in their inner lives is possible even when things have gone to hell in a hand basket in their outer lives. They know a powerful secret: the worst pain and suffering they experience in their real-world journeys can fuel their greatest progress on their inner journeys.

If you can begin to give greater weight to your inner life, you will start to see the suffering and pain you experience in your outer life differently. It will no longer define you the way it once did, because you will develop an expanded sense of your own identity. If you take a minute to think about people like physicist Stephen Hawking or the late actor Christopher Reeves, it is easy to see that a person’s physical or material life may become extremely limited and yet, at the same time, the inner life may expand exponentially. Think about someone like Nelson Mandela, whose outer life was completely circumscribed by his twenty-seven years in prison but whose inner life flourished magnificently. These heroic figures show us what is possible when we understand that our inner lives are even more valuable than our outer ones.

Getting Fired

Think about a potter making a vase on his wheel. He shapes and smoothes the clay into the desired shape and then paints on a glaze. At this point, the vase is not all it must become—it is still just soft clay that is fragile, useless and dull. It must be subjected to the intense fires of the kiln for it to become strong, useful and lustrous. Its time in the fire is what transforms the clay into a work of art and a fully functional object. It is the time in the fire that creates the real magic. And this is as true for us as it is for the vase—we may be formed and full of potential but it is only through our “times in the fire” that we are made strong and shining. When the hits we take plunge us into the fires of pain and anguish, we must try to remember that we are being transformed into beings of greater strength, usefulness and beauty.

This chapter is called Spend Forty Days In The Fire because it is necessary for spiritually bullet-proof people to be intentional about the process of both grieving and spiritual refinement. If you have taken a serious or devastating hit, you might need to spend an extended period in the fire of mourning and transformation. We use the example of forty days in the fire because forty is a powerful number for ritual and transformation. Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai, Jesus spent forty days in the desert, and Muslims grieve their dead for forty days. Lent lasts for forty days and the rains fell on Noah for forty days and nights. If you spend forty days in the fire, you can bet good money that you’ll come out transformed.

Jillian Quinn, author of Secrets of the Bulletproof Spirit
Jillian Quinn, author of Secrets of the Bulletproof Spirit
Jillian Quinn, author of Secrets of the Bulletproof Spirit
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