My sweet mama sang a song this morning in church that reminded me of the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. It is found in Daniel chapter 3 and tells how three Hebrew men–having been taken into captivity by the most powerful Babylonian king in history–refused to bow to a massive 90 foot idol.
King Nebuchadnezzar had erected the statue and then gathered officials from every province. He demanded that, at the sound of musical instruments playing, they kneel and worship the golden image. Music began to play and the people bowed–all except for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
The king “flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him (verse 13).” He then offered them another opportunity to bow:
“I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”–Daniel 3:15 NLT
The words of the Babylonian king reverberate in my head.
“… one more chance …”
“… what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”
You see, this past weekend brought with it another chance to cower to fear–another chance to question the heart and ability of God.
I was at a playoff pep-rally on Friday when I got a text from Olivia’s nurse saying that she wasn’t doing well and the medicine wasn’t helping. I got a ride back to school and found Olivia crying–in pain maybe, or from one of the neurological episodes that have been more frequent lately.
The episode was getting intense, causing her oxygen level to drop, so I asked the nurse to give her more medicine. It was the last dose she could have for hours, and we watched her suffer for another 45 minutes before it finally started to kick in.
This had gone on for weeks. I’d talked with the neurologist at Cook Children’s, but nothing we tried was working. So, I called Robert and we decided to take her into the emergency room in Fort Worth. I guess I hoped that if we put Olivia in front of a doctor, someone would find a way to help.
After hours in the emergency room, though, the ER doctor came in and sat down next to me:
“Neurology doesn’t have any more ideas.”
The doctor offered to admit us to the hospital anyway–if that was what I wanted. But he made sure I knew that there would be nothing new as far as treatment or medication changes. To increase the dose of Olivia’s meds would be to put her at risk for other, worse complications.
So, we came home and I faced a new opportunity to bow.
When someone you love has been given a terminal diagnosis, doctors and people tend to want to prepare you for the pain and ugliness they envision further down the road. Fearing a future moment and its potential to cause damage, they try to soften the blow early on. This is something that our family has dealt with for years now, and I get it. They mean well, and maybe they’re not wrong.
Still, I let go of Olivia a long time ago. With God’s help, that act of surrender is something I repeat each time I feel my heart being gripped by fear and my hands clenched in a posture of willfulness. But I release her to the tender, open hands of our loving Father–not to the schemes of the enemy of her soul and mine. I bow to my God–not to fear’s idols of control, self-sufficiency, and finding security in what the world can offer.
Because there is an unseen spiritual battle behind this formidable physical one, and the outcome of the spiritual is SO much more important than the one I can see.
There is much I don’t understand, but one thing I know is this: fear is not from God. In fact, HUNDREDS of times the Bible tells and teaches us not to be afraid.
“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”–Joshua 1:9 NLT
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”–Psalms 23:4 ESV
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”-‘1 John 4:18a ESV
… and my personal favorite:
“Don’t be afraid. Only believe.”–Mark 5:36 HCSB
Fear will become a king, a god, an idol … if we let it.
The love of God will overwhelm fear … if we let it.
So as I face “one more chance” to bow, my answer has to be a resounding no. With Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, I say:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”–Daniel 3:16-18 NLT
I don’t want to walk through fire. Watching my baby hurt is heart-wrenching. I don’t want my family to walk through fire. If only there was an easy answer–a quick fix for the pain. But I believe that if we must walk through it, we won’t be there alone. Our God is with us, and I trust that we’ll come out on the other side unscathed.
“So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames. But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” “Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied. “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!”-‘Daniel 3:23-27 NLT
The same God who walked through the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is with us too. He has promised it:
“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”–Isaiah 43:2 NLT
Since Olivia was diagnosed almost 5 years ago, I’ve known there is no medical cure. Yet, I have always felt a sense of obligation to lean on the knowledge of doctors and medical professionals. There’s nothing wrong with that. God has used them many times to help our sweet Livi.
But oddly enough, now that I’ve heard the doctors say, “We have no more ideas,” I feel a sense of relief and freedom. Like I can give myself permission to throw the full weight of my trust on God.
“I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord , who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.”–Psalms 121:1-3 NLT
My hope is in Him alone–by necessity and by choice. And I believe I will hear the Nebuchadnezzars of this world proclaim:
“There is no other god who can rescue like this!”–Daniel 3:29 NLT