Life is full of storms, deserts and times of refining. Sometimes we create the circumstances that seem to beat us down. Sometimes it's the luck of the draw. And sometimes it's a personalized attack because of our faith.
I am reminded of the story in the book of Daniel of the three friends who were thrown into the furnace. These friends were instructed to bow down to a statue of the king, but they refused to do so, because of their belief in the One True God. Because of their actions, the king demanded that they be thrown into a furnace to die.
Daniel 3:16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 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. 18 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.”
In the face of injustice and persecution, the three friends didn't argue their cause, they didn't stage a revolt, they didn't run and hide. Instead they professed their belief that God could save them and their assurance that even if He didn't, they would remain faithful.
Lately I've been walking with some friends through a firestorm of heartache and injustice. After years of running from God, the parents have fully surrendered and committed to live for Him. In the midst of their excitement and earnest desire to be discipled, the family was hit with accusations that have led to a human services investigation.
Is it a coincidence that just as this family has committed to living for God, they face persecution? There were years when the parents partied and lived selfishly, but now that they are united in growing as a family, the accusations come.
Back to our story. The friends were thrown into the furnace, but they didn't burn. The king looked in and saw four men. "25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” The men were extracted from the furnace, "27b They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them."
Despite being in harm's way, with no conceivable way out, God was with them in the fire and protected them from harm. As a Christian, we serve a God who enters into our pain, our suffering, our injustice. He isn't far off, He isn't apathetic. He is Emmanuel, God with us.
As a Christian and as a friend, I want to help end suffering and fight injustice; and oftentimes, that's what we are called to do. But sometimes being Jesus's hands and feet means climbing into the fire with them. Just sitting there in their pain, in their unfair circumstances, so they won't feel alone. Yes, Jesus is with them and won't ever leave them, but we are also needed to give His presence physical form. For me this week it meant sitting in family court. Other times it is sitting bedside while a friend convulses with fever. It may mean late night phone calls or early morning walks. When the heat turns up, don't pull away. Draw closer. Be the fourth one in the fire.