The day we received my first cancer diagnosis, my husband and I sat down with our (then) six-year-old son to tell him the news. Jeremy shed some tears and hugged me tightly. I locked eyes with him and said, “This is hard, isn’t it, bud? It’s not good news. But God is with us, and He turns everything for our good. Everything. So, we don’t need to fear. And God is going to use this in your life in amazing ways.”
Jeremy paused, then asked if we could read the story of “the Fiery Furnace.” My husband opened the Bible to Daniel 3. He read of King Nebuchadnezzar’s intimidating gold statue, threatening edict, and furious rage at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when they refused to bow down. You know how the story goes: after the men had been bound and thrown into the Fiery inferno—
King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm. He said to his advisers, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?” “Yes, of course, Your Majesty,” they replied to the king. He exclaimed, “Look! I see four untied men walking around in the fire unharmed; the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
My husband finished the story and closed the Bible, and after a pause, Jeremy said, “There are four of us in this family.” In his suffering, a six-year-old looked and saw that God was with us in our own fiery furnace. He was given eyes to see Jesus standing with us in the flames.
But we’re not always so quick to see God with us there, are we? Our eyes are more easily fixed on the pain, the loss, the unfairness. We see the impossible circumstances before us, and we despair, worry, fear, or fume. God, why have You allowed this furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual?! Why so much pain? Why the sting of death?
In your present suffering, what are you most tempted to fixate on? Is it the apparent unfairness of your situation? (Why am I afflicted while my friends are so blessed?) Is it the unrelenting physical pain? The grief that your loved ones must suffer with you? The fact that there is no end in sight? One of the things I love about Christ is that He doesn’t ask us to pretend we’re not in the furnace. Instead, He joins us there. He knows it’s blazing hot and oppressive and terrifying, and He wants to be with us in it.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and the rivers will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, and the flame will not burn you. (Isa. 43:2)
It may be difficult to look past the flood and the flame today to see Jesus clearly. He understands. He’s tender to our weakness and weariness. He meets us where we are and won’t leave us alone in our pain. Look! Here is Jesus, walking with us in our fire—and His presence will change everything.