Have you ever felt so hopeless in a situation that you wondered when or if relief would ever come?
I’d like to share about a time when I fell to my knees in despair and wept out for the redeeming power of God’s hand. God gave me the very words to cry out to Him with, tenderly received my anguished plea, and responded with more grace than I could have ever fathomed.
My prayer was prompted by a biblical narrative found in Daniel: 3. The general gist of the story goes like this: Three men refused to bow down and worship a king. The king was none too happy about this public display of defiance. As such, the three men were to be thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment. They declared that their God was powerful enough to save them from the fire, but even if He didn’t, they still would not worship the king since their God alone was good and worthy of their praise.
Several years ago, within a very short timeframe, I kept on hearing this story again and again. Sometimes it popped up in my morning devotions. Other times it was mentioned in a podcast or sermon. There was even a graphic tee with the words “Even If” printed across the front that kept on popping up in my facebook newsfeed.
Concurrently, during this same season, I was feeling utterly defeated. I was playing a hand I had never asked to be dealt, and I just wanted to fold. I felt even less than hopeless. Days were like dark nights, and both felt too long. Nonetheless, I clung to my Bible like never before.
What was God trying to tell me? Clearly, the Holy Spirit was trying to get my attention by emphasizing the same message so repeatedly. There was a link between my struggle and these few verses, but what was it?
In sheer despondency, long after the kids went to bed one night, I collapsed to my knees next to our fireplace. The fire set the dark living room aglow with its dancing flames. Yet again, I was reminded of the fiery furnace. I implored God to reveal whatever was in this story that I needed to understand.
Immediately, the clarity I sought after came. The words I needed to pray also came all at once, and I fervently meant every one of them. I professed three intermingling ideas that miraculous night:
- I trusted Him with my situation and how it would unfold, even though it was likely going to get even worse before it got better, and I had no idea what any of that meant for my family.
- If it was God’s will to change my circumstances, I would need His strength to endure the trial that would be my testimony.
- God alone had the power to change the circumstances AND He would still be worthy of my praise, even if the redeeming work I was so anxious for didn’t actually happen on this side of heaven.
Even if. Three syllables. Two words written two thousand years ago, and just as relevant today as they were back then.
I now know that on that very night he was already putting events into motion which would ultimately lead to that prayer being answered less than a month later. It did get worse before it got better, and I did receive the strength I prayed for to get through it.
Although that was one of my last prayers in that season of life, it was not my by any means first. I prayed to be delivered from the turmoil I was in HUNDREDS of times and over several years leading up to that point.
Here are 7 Lessons from during this time of suffering, waiting and redemption:
The prayers up until my “Even If” prayer were not wasted. Each whispered request cultivated an ongoing relationship with God, turning to Him every single time the thorn in my side was too much to withstand.
I would have been unable to grasp the severity of His awesome power and my ultimate dependence on Him if the first feeble attempts at praying my reality away were immediately answered.
He alone has the sovereign power to save. Even if He does not do so, we must recognize that our understanding of any given situation is affected by a bounded rationality of what we perceive to be possible.
He is working all things together in ways we can’t even begin to grasp. His character is consistently good through all of it. He alone is worthy of praise, even if petitions may seem to go unanswered.
We never know when the offered prayer will be the last one needed of its kind. Until then, we are being refined and investing in a relationship with our God. Such time is never wasted!
Any trial is only temporary. The battle has already been won on the cross. God doesn’t have to win again. The evils of this world have been defeated. We can know that whether on this side of heaven or not, one day we will have neither pain nor suffering.
We are not alone. Not on nights we pray on our knees and not the hundreds of times we prayed before that. There is another in the fire, right there with us the entire time.
Father God, There is nowhere else I’d rather be than in your protective care, in the middle of your will. Thank you for knowing what’s on my heart when I’m too exhausted to even speak the words. Even if you do not remove the burdens of the day, I still love you and praise you because of who you are. Let me have patience as I wait for deliverance in your perfect timing.
In Jesus’ Holy and Precious Name,