Have you ever had a breakfast that almost turned into lunch? It happened to me this week when I met another widow for breakfast. We left the restaurant close to noon. : )
She is decades ahead of me on this journey. Oh how I hope to have the vitality and energy and sparkle she does when I have journeyed that long. She and the Lord have had many adventures that she never imagined would be part of her story. She inspires and encourages me.
With an embarrassed laugh, she said, “I sometimes feel guilty because I am so happy!” OF COURSE, she’d rather have lived these many years with her incredible husband, yet in her circumstances God has helped her discover impossible joy.
I understand. The impossible can be possible if God is in it.
For the first time, it struck me: I know who I identify with the most in the Bible. There are a lot of broken lives and dreams in the Bible, and there are several widows (I do have a favorite widow, but I will tell you about her another time),
But, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego top my list. Remember them? They were the three men who wouldn’t bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s huge golden idol (even though everyone else did). The King had commanded that when the music played everyone should fall down and worship or they’d immediately be thrown into a blazing hot furnace.
The music played and everyone bowed down except for them; they were standing there very conspicuously in their robes and turbans among a crowd of people stretched out flat. Talk about sticking out like sore thumbs!
Raging King Nebuchadnezzar couldn’t believe it! He gave them the benefit of the doubt (not everyone there spoke the same language), and had the music replayed. They still didn’t bow.
This is what they respectfully told him, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
That didn’t go over so well. Off they went- tightly bound with ropes- into a huge burning furnace. It was so hot that the soldiers died who threw them into it.
Within a few moments, “King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
It was AMAZING: they didn’t die. They didn’t burn. They weren’t even singed. They didn’t even smell like a fire.
When King Nebuchadnezzar had them taken out of the fire; everyone checked them out and were awed. The King declared, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”
He went on to say that no one could say anything against their God or they’d be killed “for no other god can save in this way.”
They had company in that fire. King Nebuchadnezzar declared it was an angel. Bible scholars believe it was Jesus. All I know is that it was the actual, miraculous presence of God who met them in there.
And, God is with me in my fire. I am aware that from the outside looking into our lives, everyone cringes. I used to cringe too when I heard about a family like us. And, now, the holidays are coming and everyone cringes a little more.
Recently, I stood in Walmart stunned that Christmas was coming, yet again, without John. No gift brainstorming or shopping or wrapping or Christmas-morning smiling or treasuring or being together at the sweetest time of the year with our four.
“Isn’t this over, yet, Lord?”
But, honestly, from inside this fire I can tell you that God’s presence has made this fire bearable. Sometimes people tell me I am radiant. I don’t feel radiant, so if there is anything shiny about me it is the comfort and hope God has given me.
I wouldn’t mind getting out of my furnace, but God’s presence in my life is so utterly compelling that I know it is okay that I have to stay. As long as He is with me this fire can’t destroy me.
Maybe it feels like you are in a furnace too. Life can get hot. All I want to say tonight is that you don’t have to take the heat alone.
Jesus will enter into your furnace with you. Not only that, He will take off the ropes that are paralyzing you. You will be set free in your fire.
And He. will. walk. with. you.
And, the fire simply won’t be what it appears. You actually might find yourself saying, “This isn’t so bad. This isn’t the way I thought it would be or the way that it used to be. And, it isn’t how everyone thinks that it is. It is still a fire, but it is something other. I am walking and thriving and flourishing in this fire.”
And, like the reborn Scrooge, your heart will GROW with love for this God who loves you so much that He came to be with you in it. And you will glow.
And that is who we are celebrating this month- the one called Immanuel, which means God with us. God is with me in my life’s fiery furnace only because of Jesus who “gave me the right to be called a child of God.” Our Father God cares deeply for His children and is with us in our pain and fiery furnaces until the time is right to bring us home.
No matter how things appear, you can always trust Him.
With praise & love to the only God who can save in this way-
(Passages were from Daniel 3)
“In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies.”