This past week I was given the honor of teaching the Bible stories during Vacation Bible School at our church. Little did I know, God fully intended for me to learn so much from those stories. One story in particular that resonated with me so loudly was the first story: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Those three young men were faced with a life or death situation: either worship the golden statue of the king or face being thrown into a fiery furnace. They had to decide whether it was better for them to follow God's laws of not worshiping other gods or to just follow the rest of society so they won't risk their lives. Their choice would be hard for most anyone who calls himself a believer. Not only were they given a hard test of their faith, but they were also given the opportunity to be an example to the rest of society. If you read the key verse above, you will see how they responded. They chose God. They chose, essentially, the fires. They were thrown into a furnace that was so hot that the heat from the fires killed the soldiers who opened the furnace doors. And the best part of their story?
"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fire" (Daniel 3:26)
The king, his officials, and all else who were there examined these three men and found that the flames they were thrown into didn't even touch them. They did not even smell like smoke! (Daniel 3:27) Their story is real. This actually happened! God had a specific purpose for those men. He had their story laid out to where they were in the right place at the right time in order to be glorified. Was it cool that they had to go through that situation? Uh, no. It's not exactly a position I would want to find myself in. But for those men, it was their story. It was how God planned on using them.
So I got to thinking about this story as I was teaching the kids and realized that my story was not that far from theirs. No, I have never, literally, had my life threatened for my relationship with God (I've had it threatened for other things, but that is another story), but I have been faced with my own fires. We all have. The Bible talks about fire quite often, using it as an example to explain how we, as His people, are refined in order to reflect his love and glory all the more. They day after I taught this story, and a few days following, God opened my eyes to quite a few opportunities where some people were being "forced through fire" in order to be refined. Quickly, here are some of their stories:
1) A dear friend of mine was talking to me about her struggles in disciplining her 3 year old. My friend said to me, "I can see the sins *Susie is struggling with now, and it makes me worried." (*the name has been changed) I told her that Susie's sins are a part of her story. God allows for us to experience these types of struggles in order for our story to develop. Think of Jonah. That man ran from God, and it took being swallowed by a large fish for him to really see his sins and turn back to God (read his story here). As long as my friend continues to pray for her daughter and train her in the way she should go, the rest is in God's hands (Proverbs 22:6). If Susie has to struggle with her sins for a little while, there must be a reason, and it is part of her story. AND it's part of my friend's story, too! There will come a time when she will be able to share how she handled this chapter in her life days, weeks, months, or even years down the road.
2) That evening I sat down at my computer only to find that I had been attacked. I generally stay away from commenting on political or major social issues. But recently Facebook has been blowing up with all kinds of disagreements. I never really posted anything myself, but I "liked" a few things from other people's pages, and reposted a blog with a general statement that said it was an interesting read and point of view. I then received some mean-spirited emails. Someone took it personally, (still not completely sure what "it" is, but nonetheless, they did) and took it out on me, calling me names and being just truly hateful. I didn't know how to respond, and it made me sick to my stomach with worry. Was I reflecting God's love? Do I have the right to "like" whatever I want on Facebook...even if I do should I? I couldn't figure out why I was suddenly being attacked, especially by someone I had not said anything about personally. What I do know for sure is that this is my story. How I react to this situation and how God is glorified through this situation may affect the next chapter in my life. This chapter is not completely over yet. There has not been a clear resolution. I do know, though, that God has made this conversation a part of both of our stories. I was forced to walk through verbal fire, and whether or not I have scorch marks or smell like smoke will still be seen.
3) Saturday night, at 1 am, my husband comes bursting into the bedroom (he fell asleep in his chair). I sat up quickly and asked him what in the world was wrong. "The water heater broke, and there is water everywhere," he replied. I quickly jumped out of bed. While he was trying to figure out how to turn off the water, I was grabbing every available towel and blanket to kind of "sandbag" the flow of water so no more of our personal items would get damaged. For the next 3 hours, he, 2 of his friends who were kind enough to come over at 2 am, and I were working on cleaning up the water, carrying all our belongings outside, to the kitchen, or our living, and throwing away what could not be saved. Later my husband and I were talking about how to look at these little "interruptions" in our life. My husband did not plan on spending early Sunday morning cleaning up a huge mess. Matter of fact, we planned on being out of town. What a blessing it was we had an "interruption" that kept us home. Not only did God arrange for us to miss out on a boy scout camping trip, but he also gave us an opportunity to get some things done we had been putting off. Part of my New Year's Resolution was to clean and organize my craft room and pantry/laundry room. I had been putting it off, thinking this was going to be a resolution that will be carried into 2013. But nope. God had a different direction for my story. The fires of being up late cleaning up a horribly wet mess lead me to organize those two rooms in a way that is so exciting!! What could have been seen as something horrible, God turned it into a blessing (Genesis 50:20).
So what about you? Where is your story taking you? Where has your story been? How has God developed you into what you are today...who you will be in the future? When others act out against you, remember God also has a story for them as well. Make sure your role in that story is glorifying God, and you will come out of the fires unscorched as well!