If I were to ask you right now to tell me your your greatest, most intense fear, what would you tell me?
I’m not talking about spiders, snakes, crowded places, or fear of heights. I’m talking about the fears that leave you paralyzed just thinking about them. The life-altering ones. The ones that make you instantly feel sick to your stomach. The fears that, if they came to pass, might change the life you always imagined for yourself.
I remember sitting in our ladies discipleship class one Sunday night as we listened to a teaching DVD by Beth Moore. Her words seemed to resonate with me that night, as she described her thoughts on this very thing– fear. I guess I was so intrigued by what she was saying because a large part of my life has been spent playing tug of war between faith and fear over one thing or another, mostly the life-altering fears. I’ll never forget what she said; it has stuck with me ever since. “If the thing you fear most were to happen, then what? Would you trust the Lord, even if?” (paraphrased)
At that time, I was four months pregnant with Collier and had no idea that just two months later, my greatest fear would become reality. Not only once, but a year later it would be a nightmare-turned-reality twice.
I’m not sure exactly how to word what I guess I had been thinking without saying up until that point, but it might go something like this: “Lord, I will trust you, but please don’t let anything horrible happen in my life. I know You’re strong and able, but I don’t want to go through anything hard. No losses, no tragedies, no disease. Just keep all the majorly difficult stuff away, and we’ll be good. Deal?”
Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. God doesn’t shelter us from adversity. He doesn’t withhold hardship. He doesn’t keep all our greatest fears from happening (even though most of them probably won’t). He enters the fire with us.
I love the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It’s always been a favorite, but it has a deeper, more significant meaning to me now. These three young men were serving God faithfully, unashamed, wholeheartedly–and adversity came anyway. I love what they said; it’s such a bold declaration of faith! “We know the one we serve CAN save us, but even if He doesn’t, we still choose to serve Him.” (paraphrase)
Did God save them from hardship? NO. What happens was even better–He entered the fire with them. I get chills every time I read this. “Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, ‘Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?…Look! I see FOUR men walking around, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:24-25)
If that doesn’t get your heart pumping, you might want to check your pulse! Y’all, God doesn’t promise to remove your difficult circumstances or shelter you from them. He promises to walk with you in the midst of it!! He enters your pain and suffering with you. His presence goes before you, behind you, and beside you. And in the midst of your trouble, He removes the ties that bind you so that you can walk unbound and unharmed. What a great and mighty God! My eyes are full of tears right now just thinking about it.
See, if He removed all of your difficulty, it would also remove the opportunities for Him to reveal His glory to a lost and dying world. What resulted from the the fiery furnace? People saw the glory of God and were changed. Those who were enemies of God put their trust in Him. And the three in the fire? They came out without even a hint of a smell of smoke!
ONLY GOD can do that. And He’s done it for me. My greatest fear wasn’t kept from me. It happened twice, and the Lord has been with me through it all. He has walked with me through the fire, and has brought glory to Himself in the worst of circumstances! Has it been enjoyable? No! But through it all, God has put his glory on display and accomplished more than I “could have ever asked or imagined (Eph 3:20).”
So even if Lord, I will trust you. If my greatest fears continue to become reality, I will praise you in the midst of the fire, because You’ll walk with me. Use me up and pour me out for the glory of Your name. You are worth it, even if.