I often joke that I have a list of questions for God. It consists of those things that we, as broken humans, can’t possibly understand. I picture myself standing at the throne of God with my list – but then I realize that when I’m standing at the throne of God, none of it is going to matter anymore. I will already understand – and won’t care anyway. But, there are days where that knowledge just doesn’t make me feel much better. Today is one of those days.
I blogged a while ago about Dylan – the little 8 year old friend of ours who has leukemia. In the past 15 months, he has been through 8 rounds of chemo, a bone marrow transplant, a natural killer cell transplant and an experimental drug that they had hoped would allow him to have another BMT – none of it worked to cure him…but it has extended his life, to be sure. His parents have made the excruciating decision to bring him home from the hospital under hospice care. Dylan is going to die. It’s impossible to imagine.
It’s times like this that people wonder how a good God can allow these things to happen. Of course, I will never be able to answer that in this lifetime, but I pray that I have words that will glorify God and give comfort to those seeking answers.
This morning God reminded me of a study I did of the book of Daniel last summer. In Daniel Chapter 3, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego were sent to the fiery furnace as a result of their unwillingness to bow down and worship a 90 foot tall golden idol that King Nebudchadnezzar had erected in his own honor. The lesson is that as the three men entered the fiery furnace, they were faced with three scenarios – these are of course the same scenarios the people of God today deal with when we face fiery trials.
Scenario 1: We can be delivered from the fire. In the case of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, God could intervene and perform a miracle to deliver them from the fire. When God delivers us from fiery trials, our faith is built.
Scenario 2: We can be delivered through the fire. Sometimes, God allows us to experience the fire in order to refine us and build us into His character. In John 11, Jesus spoke of Lazarus’ sickness (and impending death) in this way: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). He knew that the experience of the trial would strengthen the faith of those who would witness his miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead, and God would be glorified. I Peter 1:6-7 illustrates Scenario 2 this way: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” When God delivers us through the fire, our faith is refined.
Scenario 3: We can be delivered by the fire into His arms. This one may be hard for us to imagine, but sometimes God’s people suffer fiery trials and are delivered into God’s arms. Life on earth is fleeting and vaporous – as humans, we tend to put a stranglehold on our earthly lives, but Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego were willing to die rather than worship a false idol, because they knew that “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” James 1:12 gives this promise: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” When God delivers us by the fire into His arms, our faith is perfected and made complete.
My prayers for Dylan have evolved and changed through the last 15 months. They have moved from praying that he would be delivered from the fire, to praying that he would be delivered through the fire. And, now….as inconcievable as it seems, I am praying that he will deliver him into the arms of our loving God. That’s not to say that I don’t believe there won’t or can’t be a miracle. I most certainly do! And, I know God can do it. I pray that if it is His will, it will be done.
Back to the story…..After ordering the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than normal, King Nebudchadnezzar ordered the three men to be bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. And the story ends….the three men survive the furnace (although the guards who throw them in do not!) and are joined in the fire by a fourth man who “looks like a son of the gods” (Dan. 3:25, NIV). Now, I have to share something I learned in this study because it is too cool not to share. The original language in Dan. 3:25 translated “sons of the gods” (NIV) means “son of deity.” The King James Version (KJV) translates the word “son of God.” Any time in Scripture there is a visual manifestation of God, it is always Jesus Christ. Indeed, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego may have been joined in the fire by a preincarnate Christ – how awesome is that! (And how important a lesson for us – God does not abandon us in times of fiery trials – He is right there with us!)
As I reflect on Dylan’s story, I see that his family’s faith has been built and refined through this horrifying experience. But, I know that God has been there with them through it all. And, I believe that God is crying with them as they travel this path. It’s impossible to explain to people why bad things happen – and yet….if you look hard, it is possible to find God in all situations. And, I pray that those who love Dylan will be delivered from the fire to a greater faith in God.