Have you ever felt like God has called you to walk through fire? Hopefully for you it’s not literal fire, but perhaps a circumstance that feels like it will consume you at any moment? I have. I am. Can I encourage you today, while encouraging myself, with God’s Word?
This Sunday one of our pastors preached on Daniel chapter 3, you probably know the story. King Nebuchadnezzar commands everyone in Babylon to bow down to an image and worship it whenever music plays, but three Hebrew men refuse. Their names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
The men were brought before the king and were, by the king’s unexpected mercy, given one last opportunity to submit and to bow down to the image, otherwise they would be thrown into a “burning fiery furnace.” (Daniel 3: 15) Well, they didn’t. Their response was “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.” (Daniel 3:17-18)
Their boldness angered the king so much that he ordered the furnace be heated seven times its usual temperature. The three Hebrews were bound and cast into the furnace. It was so hot that the men charged with doing so were instantly killed by the heat and flames, but not Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The king saw that all three were walking around inside the furnace, unbound. And what was even more astounding- they were accompanied by a fourth who was “like a song of the gods.” (Daniel 3:25)
The king called to the men to come out and was amazed to find that they were not harmed in the least, not even their clothing smelled of smoke. This caused Nebuchadnezzar to praise God saying “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants, who trusted in Him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.” (Daniel 3:28)
I draw so much encouragement from this passage. As you may, or may not, know, I suffer from a currently undiagnosed chronic illness. I’ve been in pain since I was 14, though it’s been much worse since I was 22. I’m 31 now, and God has taught me a lot through my pain. I still find it difficult to thank Him for my suffering, but I do thank Him and praise Him for the many things I have learned during this time that I would not have learned otherwise.
Chronic illness and pain can feel like fire sometimes. I feel it consuming my youth, my energy, my happiness, and my opportunities. While my friends dream about running marathons, having more babies, and living into their nineties, I can’t. My body won’t allow it, and I can’t allow my mind to go there because it just hurts too much.
But praise God that Jesus suffered when He walked this earth so that I have a God who knows my pain in more ways than I can even fathom. He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness to idolize comfort and relief from suffering, but chose to look to and depend upon the faithfulness of God instead. He bore God’s wrath toward my sin and suffered a painful death in my place so that I wouldn’t have to. He delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from their fate in a fiery furnace. He may not deliver me in this life, but I know that what God says through Isaiah is true: ” Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. ” (Isaiah 43:1-3)
Jesus walked through the fire in Babylon with three Hebrew men who trusted Him and delivered from the fires of Hell all who will trust in Him. I will walk through the fire of suffering and pain and loss because Jesus has gone before me. I will follow Him because He is the Way and because He knows the way.