Living in the “Even If”

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I love the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, those three courageous souls from the third chapter of Daniel who stood the test of the fiery furnace and never got burned. Those three young men who were captives in a foreign land and had the guts to refuse conformity and surrender to a false god, even though theirs appeared to be nowhere near coming to their rescue. Those three gutsy guys who stared death in the face for their faithfulness to the God they had only heard about, and yet had pledged their allegiance to. Those three heroes who were rewarded with the greatest treasure of all – meeting Jesus face to face in the middle of their fire!

There is so much to love about their story, but I especially love it because I am able to appreciate it and even share it without getting too close to it. What they endured, it is pretty likely I will never face in my lifetime (I won’t say impossible because only God knows for sure). Staring hot coals in the face and knowing they’ve been heated seven times hotter just for me is probably not a test I will have to walk through (although if I do, I pray I will be found faithful). I am so thankful we have others’ stories to learn important lessons from!

And as I set my heart to learn, I have come, time and time again, to this timeless lesson which I have been invited to personally step into:

True Breakthrough isn’t always about making it to the other side. Sometimes, often times, real breakthrough is about living in the “even if” and trusting that God will break through and into the fires I will face, somehow revealing His goodness and His faithfulness to all who see and hear.

I don’t mean to suggest that this means we should be passive pray-ers. God wants us to know, believe and ask that He will heal, deliver, and do anything we ask of Him, as it aligns with His will and promises. And even when we don’t see Him working these kinds of miracles, we still must always believe that He can. We must be careful to never reduce the truth of Who He is and what He does to what we are experiencing. Whether or not He heals, He will still always be the Healer.  Even if He asks us to endure rather providing a route of escape, He still will always be the Deliverer.

Nevertheless, while I am challenged to continue believing God, and have the privilege of doing so without (so far) the test of physical fire, I have faced many spiritual fires which have threatened to destroy my hopes and dreams. I have known terrifying moments of facing the great threats of the enemy, because of my faith and commitment to follow God, and I have experienced the miraculous grace of God enabling me to say, “I know my God is able to deliver me, but even if He doesn’t, I still will not bow.”

In storybook pictures, it all looks so clean and neat. Into the fire they go, and out they come with Jesus, not a hair singed or a garment burnt. In our stories, however, it’s much messier, and far less appealing. Half the time, we don’t even know there is a fire being prepared for us, and we’re so distracted with the stuff of life that we tend to miss the marking moments which would grant us the opportunity of facing the fire.  I’m speaking more for myself than anyone, of course.

I love to picture myself standing boldly in a crowd of people, bravely declaring my loyalty to God, no matter the cost. But in reality, I am far from the kind of hero that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were. In my off-screen life, as this process plays out for me, I cry more than rejoice. I lament more than praise. I stumble more than walk bravely onward. I need resuscitation and affirmation often. My poor friends are wiping my tears and standing me upright often, reminding me that God will indeed be faithful, no matter what it looks like in the moment. It isn’t pretty, but I’m working on it, with God’s help and the courageous hearts of those God has given to stand beside me – as they, too, face their fires. And I am hoping, and believing, that God is making a warrior out of this wimp.

Admittedly, when it comes to these fiery test kind of moments, I am usually stunned at first. So, any kind of brave-hearted response I may end up making is either the result of a get-a-grip smack from a true buddy, or the incredible grace of God strengthening me to do what I usually can’t even find the wits to consider doing in the moment. I’ve never been known for witty comebacks or quick responses. I’m the girl who can come up with great rebuttals about fifteen minutes after a conversation is over! Since I am writing about breakthrough, and have testified about it many times, I just want to give credit and glory where they are due. I am definitely undeserving of both!

I don’t usually even know that I’m on my way into the fire until I’m halfway there, so it’s hard sometimes for me to be intentional on the front end about taking a brave stance. This is where I can testify that just being in relationship with God really is a saving grace. Somehow, I end up standing before I have found the strength and the wit to do so on my own. He is my helper, and as I entrust my life to Him daily, He moves me when and where I am unable to move myself.

I say that to intimate that “not bowing” doesn’t always boil down to a fateful moment. In reality, it is a daily lifestyle of committing our hearts to Him. In marching orders, “not bowing” equates to the everyday willingness to face the loss of all we hold dear by holding what we possess loosely; to surrender the circumstances we cannot control and focus instead on allowing Him to mold us through them; and to set our hearts to stand and praise God no matter what happens – trusting that whatever He chooses to do or not do will be both good and right.

Even if it hurts. Even if it seems unfair. Even if it looks different than the way we were sure it was going to. Even if it’s hard and messy. Even if we don’t understand. Even if it kills us, or our dreams. It looks like pledging our hearts to love His presence more than we love anything else, and to be willing to have that love tested, even if by the fires of discomfort and suffering.

What I am utterly amazed of is that somehow, as I face these fiery places in life, these tests of true faith, I’m finding that my trust is growing. Underneath all of the pain and all of the fit-throwing about it (yes, I am confessing my tantrums), and when the ground is cleared after something else has been destroyed, I discover an indestructible belief that is rooted in God alone. It reminds me of those old cartoons where the dynamite would explode, and whichever character was holding it would be charred and reeling a bit, but still alive, and in the next season they would be off and running again, chasing their enemy.

It seems strange to think that God not showing up to rescue me could actually increase my faith in Him, but it’s what I am experiencing. Because it’s what His Word promises – that as we stand and wait for Him, He renews our strength and our faith is refined and purified.

I don’t really expect to talk anyone into slowing down enough to embrace fire, to face the test of allegiance to God in the face of real suffering and the threat of deep loss. It’s just that, as I walk through it in my own life, the revelation is becoming contagious, and I want to share it so that, maybe, you might be inspired to watch for your own opportunities.

I know they aren’t the kind of opportunities we are used to chasing, but Kingdom-minded women chase what God wants for them, and sometimes God wants a face-to-face encounter in the middle of the hard thing that we were hoping He would spare us from going through.

What I am learning about living in the “even if” is that the reward of His presence will always be greater than the reward of any outcome I might be hoping for. And that all true breakthrough, dear Woman of Breakthrough, will always lead us back to Him – even if it means we must walk through fire to get there.

I hope and pray today that, whatever you are facing, your heart is set on faithfulness to the God Who has been so faithful to you. I pray that He will give you and I eyes to see His faithfulness even when it looks very much like He is nowhere to be seen. May we know, like we’ve never known anything before, that He will surely come for us. And may we plant our feet firmly wherever He has called us to stand, even if it is in the fire.

Even if He doesn’t deliver us from the enemy’s weapons, we can count on the promise that those weapons will not prosper in the agenda they were sent for. God will not allow us to be destroyed. He will only surprise us with an unexpected plan to continue bringing beauty out of any ashes that come from our lives.

May we hang our hats on this hook today: Our God is faithful, and as we refuse to believe anything less by surrendering the outcome to Him, we will surely see Him arise. Be watchful and hopeful as you wait!

{Photo images courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com}

 


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