At one point or another, just about all of us ask God to come to our rescue in one way or another. We pray that He will get us out of some hole that we’ve dug for ourselves with our own bad judgment. We request healing for ourselves or others. We seek deliverance from some crisis – emotional, economic or spiritual – that we feel will do us in. And God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love; and so, he often does, in fact, rescue us…and that more often than we deserve. But how do we respond when He does not?
A well-known story in today’s Daily Office contains a line that I think is among the more challenging in scripture and that invites us to consider whether we love and trust the LORD for Himself or for the blessings that He provides. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has constructed a huge golden idol and has commanded that everyone fall down and worship it whenever the music plays. Those who refuse this command will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But three Jewish exiles – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – indicate that they will not obey the king’s edict, and the king reminds them of the unpleasant fate that awaits them as a result. In their response, however, we catch a glimpse of faith that transcends our circumstances:
“King 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 deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
“Even if He does not….” Never mind the fact that we are sometimes quick to abandon God and to offer our allegiance to one idol or another, even when there are no threats that compel us to do so. Will we hold on to God even when our prayer goes unanswered, or when the answer is “no,” or when the deliverance we sought doesn’t come in the way we anticipated?
May God create within us the kind of trust that can rest in Him, no matter what. And in everything that comes our way, may we truly believe that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.