This week, the Relevant blog features special guest writer, Heather Watson. Heather is the cheerleading coach at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. She is a graduate of WBC, where she studied studio art. Heather and her husband, Andrew, have two sons, Parker and Oliver. Heather really loves tacos and The Office.
One morning, I sat on the couch with my coffee and my Bible and decided to just open it up and start reading like I did in the 8th grade when I had no idea what to read (not much has changed, apparently).
It opened to the first chapter of Daniel, and I kind of sighed and almost flipped to another page thinking, "yeah yeah, the lion’s den. blah blah." Growing up in church makes you think you know all the things about all the Bible stories. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As I read through the book of Daniel, I was immediately thrown off my all-knowing high horse when I realized I had forgotten about the fiery furnace part of the story.
Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, are away from him doing their own thing in Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar builds a gaudy statue and commands everyone to fall down and worship it at certain times of the day. The punishment for not worshiping the statue is death by blazing furnace. In my head, I'm thinking that if I were there, I would totally face plant in front of that statue and put on a good show, but in reality, I would be praying to God and not actually worshipping the statue.
I’m so weak.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to worship the king’s statue, infuriating other people in the kingdom who, in turn, go to the king and rat them out. Nebuchadnezzar is super ticked. He confronts the three friends to warn them of their fate if they continue to pray to God.
Their response to him just absolutely blows my mind.
"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.'" (Daniel 3:16-18, ESV)
Do your worst, king. Do. Your. Worst.
Can you fathom that kind of bravery? I just cannot. It really does blow my mind, because as we all know, I’d be on the floor in front of the statue trying to keep my own rear out of the furnace. But even more amazing than standing up to the king is their unwavering faith in God and their implicit trust in Him – our God is perfectly capable of saving us, of this we are certain; but even if, even if, he chooses not to spare us, we will only and always worship the one true God.
The fiery furnace is a good metaphor for any number of awful things we face in life.
Cancer, divorce, job loss, infertility, terrorism, depression, death. Things that threaten to burn us down and squelch our faith in God. Things that feel impossible. Things we pray to him to heal, cure, help, restore, wipe away, renew. Yes, it takes hope and faith to pray for those things, but how often do I say, “Lord, even if you choose to take this in a different direction than what seems best to me, I will still trust in you, no matter what happens.” I’m ashamed to admit that many times I’ve prayed to God like he’s my personal genie who will do whatever I ask him to because my way is best, obviously.
God saved Daniel's friends, just as they believed he would.
And while that is a nice ending to that story, there are a zillion other stories where God didn’t save the day in the way people wanted him to--or ven in our own lives. As a result, our faith felt a little worn and tested, maybe even run out.
I think it’s what we do then, after the “even if,” that defines our faith and strengthens us as believers--knowing that God will ultimately save the day, and firmly trusting only him until then.
To read more from Heather Watson, visit her personal blog, cakeandgreenbeans.com