“When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you….Even when I walk through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me.” (Isaiah 43:2; Psalm 23:4 – NLT)
“I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would be [but] one cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall be better I cannot tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.” Believe it, or not, those are the words of a 32 year old Abraham Lincoln.
None of us are immune to the inevitable dark periods of life when we feel like, as one author described, “a glob of unworthiness.” St. John of the Cross described it as “the dark night of the soul.” It’s a darkness that simply refuses to lift.
When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s 90 foot tall golden idol they were all sentenced to death by being burned alive in a furnace. But something happened that, if we’re not careful, we’ll miss. We pick up the story in Daniel 3:24: “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?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, Your Majesty.’ He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
The “fourth man” was the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walked out of the furnace not only were they not burned – they didn’t even smell like smoke.
Hope comes from knowing this: it’s not that God will be waiting on the other side of our darkness when it finally lifts, but rather, regardless of how long the darkness lingers, God is with us IN the darkness – holding us. And regardless of how dark, or how hot, it gets – He’s not letting go. Ever.
Soli Deo Gloria, Nick