I recently just finished reading, "Let's All Be Brave" by Annie F. Downs, and amongst some major truth bombs and the current repetition of "brave" seemingly being a call in my life, she brought up Shadrach, Meshac, and Abednego, 3 dudes who lived in Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar's rule, refused to bow down to a golden statue of the king and worship Babylonian gods, got thrown into a furnace because they refused to obey the king, and who also happened to survive a super hot furnace.
It's a story I grew up hearing in Sunday school, because it demonstrated how awesome God is, and there's also a Veggie Tales movie about the same thing, so I thought I was pretty up on the story. (And if you tell me you don't remember STAND UP STAND UP, you're lying.)
(Unrelated: I'm now listening to Veggie Tales for the rest of the night.)
I could almost predict where I thought she would go with this: Shadrach, Meshac, and Abednego were brave because they stood up for what they believed in, and their faith and resistance to the ways of the world saved them, blah blah blah.
Except... she pointed out the verses 16-18 in Daniel 3, which say:
"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 still wouldn't make a bit of difference. We still wouldn't serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up."
Maybe this won't be a truth bomb in your life, but can we still talk about this?
Because these men stood up and confidently said, "Hey, we know God can rescue us from anything you toss at us."
But then - in the next breath - say, "But even if he doesn't, it wouldn't make a difference. We'd still only worship God."
Lately, I've been trying to live my life in a way that reflects that I am anchored in joy and hope. But this takes the idea of having "this hope as an anchor, firm and secure for our souls" (Hebrew 6:19) to a whole other place.
It wouldn't make a difference. It wouldn't change their decision to not bow down to a big golden statue. It didn't change anything.
Any time I'm about to walk through a hard time, any time I'm about to face a fiery pit, I walk away. I numb. I turn to anything else. I run away. Everything changes when I face an "even if..."
I would be the one standing there, saying, "I know God can rescue me, because I have seen Him do it so many times in my life before. But I'm not sure what happens if He doesn't rescue me and I don't really want to find out, so I'm just going to peace and run away before I get burned."
I know God could keep all my favourite boys in Honduras safe from gangs and corruption...but even if He doesn't, would I still be singing when the evening comes? Would I still let him reign sovereign over my life?
I'm the person that's scared by even if's. Why couldn't the guys have just stopped at, "We know God can do this - He will rescue us"? You know, shove it in King Nebuchadnezzar's face.
Then Annie dropped this other truth bomb in my life:
"The boys didn't question God's character or strength. They didn't serve God because of what He did for them. They served God because He's God. They were brave because of who God is, not because of what He could do for them."
And I'm suddenly reminded that I don't serve God because it's the easier option, or because He can give me a lot of nice things, or because He can rescue me quickly every time things get remotely difficult.
I serve him because the even if's in my life will turn into the even when''s. Even when stuff goes south with Dad. Even when your grandparents pass away. Even when your heart is breaking for the one's you love most. But even when I'm heading for that fiery furnace, where I'm about to be tested beyond what I think I can handle, God is still good.
I know that may seem a little bit wild - fire is bad. "Even if's" are bad, and "even when's" are worse. I know God could take care of all the little children in the world, but even when they pass away senselessly... I know God could heal all this pain in my heart, but even when He doesn't (and makes me more patient than I ever thought possible), it won't make a difference.
I still have to stay. I have to go through the firery furnace. Who God is does not change based on my circumstances. He is still just, holy, good, and loving.
I cannot stand in church and sing, "Blessed be Your name when I'm found in the desert place, though I walk through the wilderness, blessed be Your name" when I am swayed by the even if's of this world.
I cannot stand in church and sing, "Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes", and run away from a firery furnace when I know - with all my heart - know God will rescue me from it.
And so many of my even if's are going to turn into even when's.
Even when my heart gets broken...
Even when someone I love passes on...
Even when life is really tough and I'm holding a cracked and fragile heart up to God, saying, "I can't go through the furnace again"...
But I am brave because of who God is, because of His character and His strength - not because of what He can do for me. I can confidently sing that there are 10,000 beautiful reasons for my heart to find, even if He doesn't rescue me from the fire.
So thanks for the reminder, Annie. You can truth bomb my life any day.
PS. Even if this didn't truth bomb your life the way it did mine, y'all should still go read Let's All Be Brave, because there are so many nuggets of solid gold wisdom in that book, let me tell ya.