Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lent Day 20 - Faith for the Crucible

Have you ever been faced with something that you feared would get the best of you? I can't imagine the answer to be anything but yes for anyone who has reached adulthood. That may be your reality right now. Even as a Christian you are dealing with something beyond your ability to cope. What is it for you?
  • loss of a job
  • a cancer diagnosis
  • death of a loved one
  • infertility
  • divorce
  • deployment
  • the death of a lifetime dream
  • financial crisis
  • a move to another state or country
  • wayward children
Add to the list. We can all personalize it with our own experiences. Are you praying for God to intervene? Does it feel like he has not listened? Do you wonder where he is and why he no longer cares? 

The truth is, he never stops caring - ever. What we know in our heads, however,  is sometimes easily over-ridden by what we feel in our hearts. 

We know God has a plan that he continues to work out in the world and in each of us. One of the hard things is that we can't see the big picture, and we can't always know the purpose in our suffering. If we're really honest though, there are times when even if we could know God's plan completely we still wouldn't care - because we are afraid and hurting. That's just human, and God understands. 

Consider the prospect of dying for a moment. I am perfectly at peace with where I will go when I die and where I will spend eternity. Some days I can't wait to get there! My preference, however, is to die peacefully in my sleep - not in a fiery car crash. Do I have control over that? Of course not. I don't fear the end (or the beginning actually!) as much as what happens on the journey. I don't want to feel fear, grief, or pain, even if they get me to my ultimate destination. That's human too. 

That's why the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the fiery furnace is such an amazing one. You can read about it in Daniel 3, but let me pull out a few verses for you to focus on. Their strength and trust is amazing! Here it is:

"Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king,
'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.'"

Can you imagine? They had the ability to speak a word, bow a knee, and save themselves from that furnace. But let's consider. Was the furnace the actual furnace or was it the opportunity to live or die by faith, making the ultimate surrender of themselves to the will of God?

Would I have had the courage to submit myself to a horrible death to remain faithful? Would you? I hope I never need to find out! I know how weak I am.

Most of life's crucible moments do not come with an option to get ourselves out. We are there in the middle, completely dependent on God. 

I like to call this the story of "but if not" faith. I know God can deliver me from this, but if he doesn't, I will still believe and trust. It goes against every instinct of self-preservation that we have, doesn't it? 

For a Christian, though, even with every fear and doubt and feeling of hopelessness we may have, there is always the underlying truth that God is sovereign and supreme and he never makes a mistake. At the end of this crucible there is joy and comfort and recovery and a deeper, more intimate knowledge of Him. 

Are you in a crucible right now? How are you doing there? Whatever it is, know that you are not there alone. Whether you see him and feel him there or not, God is in this with you. He will bring you through it, bind up your wounds and bless you because of it. 

You need to do several things:
  • stay in the Word
  • pray constantly 
  • believe in God's promises, NOT your feelings
  • share your burden with someone who will pray for you
  • begin now to praise God for his deliverance and blessing - you KNOW that's coming
Know also, that if you are reading this post someone has already prayed for you today. I may not know your name or your circumstances, but I have lifted you to the foot of the cross and asked for God's mercy and blessing where you need it today. Please pray with me for anyone who reads this today. There is power in prayer, not in us, but in the One who hears every thought and sees every tear. 

In his time, God will end your suffering, wipe away every tear, and bring a harvest of blessing to you and those you touch because you have persevered. 

I am praying for you. 


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