Daniel 3:16-18 (the message)
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us into the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were three young Israelite men who had been captured from Judah and taken into captivity in Babylon. Here King Nebuchadnezzar had built a 90 foot high golden statue and required that all in his kingdom fall to their knees and worship this statue. In the verses above we see the response of these God-fearing young men but what captures my heart is that as they proclaim to this evil king that their God is more than able to save them, they also declare “But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods…” Even if God doesn’t perform the miraculous, even if He doesn’t save us it won’t matter…we still will only worship Him.
Even if. As I sit in silence at my kitchen table, I ponder the kind of life that utters those words to God. I think about the few people I have known that seemed to say “Even if my prayers aren’t answered the way I want I still will only serve and worship my God.” I haven’t known many, and can’t say I am one of those people, but I have seen a glimpse here and there of relentless faith. I have come across a mother or two that has buried their young infant son and as they acknowledge the struggle with anger or pain, they still set their hearts on God. They live a life that screams out “even if…” How does that happen? How can we know and taste and live out the kind of faith that determines to honor God even if He doesn’t answer the way we want? Furthermore, why would we?
I haven’t buried a child or a spouse. I haven’t lived through that kind of searing heartache. I have lost a baby to miscarriage and it was painful. I remember at the time working it out in my mind…where had my prayers gone wrong? Was my faith too weak? Did I not pray the right way? Why did God not save my baby? Why did I have to say good-bye to a dream so early on? Well, I never did find the answer to those questions of why, but I did find something else along the way. I found that the only place my heart healed was in the presence of Jesus. I learned that as I let Him soothe the pain and help me to move on I could live without knowing why. And I discovered, over time, that I can trust God even when things don’t go “right.” I can trust God “Even If.” I have this little phrase that runs through my heart and mind and actually it came from one of our little movies about Daniel and the Lions Den. The phrase goes like this: “God always knows something I don’t know.” So, sometimes when things are hard, when I face an “even if,” I am reminded of that and I believe it…God knows what I don’t know and if He is good, which I know He is, then I can trust Him even if things don’t turn out the way I hoped. Let me just say that as I write I am fully aware that there are things in life I have not experienced and that declaring your trust in God in the middle of the fiery furnace can be more easily said than done! But I do know, because of my own personal challenges, that God is always good. He always loves us. When we cry out to God from broken and yielded hearts we can trust Him. Even though I miscarried a child and that wasn’t the answer I wanted, I have experienced the goodness of God in my life, all my life. I may not have been able to see His goodness until I reached proverbial hindsight, but there it is…staring back at me…reminding me He knows what I don’t know and if I am seeking Him I can trust Him. Like these young men, we can know God so personally and experience His goodness to such a degree that we tell the challenges of life…Even if this doesn’t turn out how I want I will still trust God. I declare that even though my God is more than able to deliver me, even if He doesn’t it won’t make a difference. I will still worship Him. Would it be a broken, painful process to worship God in the midst of an “even if” situation? Sometimes it is, but then comes the healing. Then comes the comfort and love of a God that is fiercely determined to be with us. He wraps Himself around us and walks us through.
After my miscarriage, and as I was working through the “why” of it, I finally came back to church on a Wed night. I hadn’t stop coming on Sundays because I just knew that staying away from church when I was hurting or even angry with God would only make things worse (had already been down that road). But for a while I wouldn’t come on Wed nights and the only reason I did was because I had a previous commitment to be there on one particular night. So, I am sitting there in my little shell of pain and anger and instead of preaching that night, my then Pastor allowed different people to speak from their hearts if they wanted. From what I remember, I was mostly nonplussed until this one woman stood up from her seat and said she didn’t know why but felt like she was supposed to sing this little chorus. It was one I instantly recognized from childhood about giving thanks. As she sang that little chorus my shell began to crumble and I slowly lifted my hands. I could feel God’s presence and love as even in the midst of my loss I chose to worship…to give Him thanks. Was I thanking Him for my lost baby? No…I was just thanking Him for being with me. Only God has the power to really heal us deep down to the core…
What is your “even if?” Do you know Jesus well enough to say that you trust Him? Even if He asks something of you that costs you your pride and comfort? Even if He doesn’t heal your body how you want and when you want? Even if Jesus doesn’t send you a check in the mail equal to all your debt and you have to muddle through the muck the old-fashion way? Even if you take a step of faith and reach out to that person you haven’t gotten along with for years and they turn you away? Even if you take a chance and go back to church and the Pastor doesn’t smile and speak to you the way you expect? Even if you raised your children the best you know how and they stay determined to self-destruct? Even if rebuilding your marriage is a lot harder and takes a lot longer than you thought? Even if…Even if…Even if…
Even if you have let go of God because “even if” was too hard, God will not let go of you. If you have walked away because your even if ate you alive and you promised yourself I won’t go through that again…He has not let you go. It makes me smile…see, I want you to hear God’s “Even If” for you: Even if you turn away from Him and stay turned for years and years, He will never turn you away. Even if you have cursed Him in your grief, He will forgive you and welcome you home. Even if you give up and take a time out every now and then from facing your challenge head-on, God will be in step with you the minute you get back up. Even if you have ignored Him, sinned against Him, mocked Him, disbelieved Him…He will never ignore you, never refuse to forgive your sin, never belittle you and He will never stop believing in you. Jesus loves you even if you don’t love Him.
Someone is going to read this and you are having a hard time. You are hurting and perhaps angry…maybe even angry with God. It’s been a long road and the road continues to stretch out…maybe you want to quit on God and just give into despair because hope can be painful to hold onto. But, my friend, Jesus is the point of life…however much it hurts, however long it’s been, He is the balm for your weary soul. God knows what you don’t know. He can see the entire picture while you can only see from your position. Although God is indeed a miracle-working God, I won’t try to promise you everything will turn out just how you think it should. What I can promise, because I have been there, is that no matter how it turns out Jesus can walk you through it if you will let Him. And there is never a wasted moment in walking with Jesus…even if sometimes He carries you.