My December post noted that our past anniversaries are memorable for their lack of traditional romance: three out of four took place during a medical emergency. December 30th, 2020 was different. Anxiety over construction delays, dissertation deadlines, and health fluctuations evaporated as we marveled at the glorious Pacific Ocean. Surely our problems would soon be swept away by the loving God who sent six-foot waves every four hours to one tiny beach in Northern California.
Most transcendent moments come crashing back to reality, and that was true when we opened our laptops the following Monday. Ivan still had a prospectus due. People still had sick family members in my online prayer group. I still had a doctor’s appointment. Then we got the email: our builder was being investigated for fraud. Although we can’t share details, the summary is that Ivan and I are unable to keep the condo.
But when I logged onto my prayer group that Tuesday, I realized we weren’t the only ones reeling. There were more sick family members and lost jobs than I remembered before the holiday break. And none of us could have predicted the violence flooding TVs the following Wednesday. The God of that peaceful beach felt infinitely far away.
But feelings aren’t facts, and I don’t think He is.
As we continue to face a plethora of trials, I’d like to remind us of a story that’s gotten me through many tough times. I first posted it in February 2017 when I was told I wouldn’t walk as soon as doctors had first predicted.
The book of Daniel tells us about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three Jewish men who were advisors to the king of Babylon. The king decreed that all his subjects worship him as a god. You can probably guess that these advisors said no. The king overreacted just a little bit and threatened to throw them into a blazing furnace unless they changed their minds. I love the advisors’ response:
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 4:17-18)
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego looked beyond their specific circumstances – imminent death – and trusted that God had an ultimately good plan, even if they couldn’t see it. This may seem like blind faith, but it wasn’t. Babylonian advisors were some of the most highly educated men of their day. As Jews, they were also familiar with God’s promise to save a fallen world. When God put their faith to the test, they stuck with what they knew.
I hope the same can be true of us. We’re extremely blessed that our trials probably don’t include real fiery furnaces, even if they do test our faith in God’s character. Sometimes it feels impossible to look at our specific circumstances and trust that God has an ultimately good plan, but He does. He’s already given us salvation through Jesus, and I can’t think of a better guarantee that everything will be made right, even if we only see the “big picture” in Heaven.
P.S. For those of you who are still worried about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, God got them out of that furnace. You should check it out! 🙂