While it happens to us all, going through difficulties in our lives is never an easy thing, nor is it a joyful experience. That we have such difficulties should neither catch us by surprise, or discourage us, for we were warned that such days would come our way. The Apostle Peter shared these words with us…” Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12). James, the brother of Jesus, gave us some similar advice when he said, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” (James 1:2 - Both passages from the English Standard Version).
I have come to see that there are lessons to be learned when going through some sort of trial or difficulty that just can’t seem to be learned any other way, or at any other time except when in the middle of some trial in my life. There is something about such a trial - be it sickness, a sad turn in a relationship, financial stress, or direction in employment – that makes us more open to hear from God than we are able to do when things are rolling along quite merrily!
Now, I would love to get to the place where I could avoid these dark days, but honestly – I don’t think it is going to happen, for it seems that the Bible supports such difficult days as part of the amazing will of the Lord for our lives. Said differently, I don’t think we can avoid those days in which we feel that we are walking through the valley of the shadow death. And, just as the Psalmist cried in Ps. 23, we too learn that HE is with us when we are in that valley.
One of my favorite Old Testament Bible stories is that of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – the three friends of Daniel who are often referred to as “the three Hebrew Children.” These young men loved and honored God, and refused to bow before a golden image of an idol prepared by a wicked king. The consequence to disobedience was death – death in a fiery furnace. The story of this incident is found in Daniel 3.
King Nebuchadnezzar was enraged that these three friends blatantly refused to bow – so the furnace was heated up, even OVERHEATED – to the point that the men throwing them in were themselves instantly killed by the heat. But still, the three fell into the furnace. Talk about a fiery trial!
It is what happened next that always amazes and encourages me. Three young men were thrown in. Everyone expected them to die, and I am sure that they themselves could not have imagined what was to happen. But those who peered into the furnace saw an amazing sight…an appearance of a FOURTH person in the flames, walking in the furnace with the other three, and this unexpected occupant looked like the Son of God!
Three men were cast in. Four men were seen together in the flames. Three men came back out, untouched, unharmed.
Where is that fourth man? He is still in the flames! And I believe that He, the Lord, will be us all when we too are in the furnace of affliction, pain, or relational difficulty.
Take heart – we are never really alone. He is in the flames with us.
Until next time.
~ Mike Gilland
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