I Will Not Drown
In the midst of the storm, it is hard not to be terrified of the outcome. That is where I am now. Sometimes I hit the eye of the storm and all seems calm. Sometimes, like yesterday I get tossed to the violent edge and my heart panics and hurts as if there will never be a tomorrow. I have been in this storm for four years this week. I am unsure of the exact day the storm hit, but I know it was this week. And the day doesn’t really matter, because the storm had been brewing on the horizon months before it landed. Four years feels like forever. I initially anticipated (because I like to be in control) that the storm would blow over in a year. And most of my friends kindly predicted the same. This storm was a phase, a passing dark cloud that wouldn’t last very long and certainly not run into years and years.
As I was hit with another tornado yesterday, I was surprised by how much my heart ached all over again. I have been resting in the shelter of the Most High (Psalm 91:1 – my soothing, confirming, steadying 911 dispatch call) and yet this torrential rain was hitting my heart and making me question the stability of my shelter. The pelting rain hurt. It made the tears well up in my eyes at the loss and wreckage that I was feeling, wreckage that I had already surrendered to the Most High.
The enemy is so powerful here. But I know he’s defeated. He plays the game as if he is victorious over this storm. He shifts the darkness to appear more powerful than the light. I am fully aware of how he plays the game as a deceptive liar. I am fully tucked into the shadow of the Almighty, but I am momentarily being tossed by the violent wind, which my enemy blows. Thoughts plunged deep into my mind; “You’ll never have that relationship back,” “She’s too far to reach,” “Everything you thought you knew, was never true,” “You have years and years and years to go in this storm, and it may never end.” “Your Christian beliefs and values are outdated and foolish.” Those thoughts produced a physical pain in my physical heart and the tears flowed again and again. Had I stepped out from the shelter of the Most High? Or was God allowing me to catch the edge of the storm He was surely protecting me from?
I know I am not alone in these thoughts and feelings. You may be in this place too. You have surrendered your heartache to the Lord and yet your heart still hurts and as your circumstance unfolds so does the pain you feel. Surrender. Heartache. Surrender. Heartache. And the cycle goes on and on. Let’s take a look at another passage of scripture that talks about moving through a disaster with the Lord. Isaiah 43:1-2.
“But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
God is so clearly telling the nation of Israel (which includes you and me into this present day and beyond) to NOT fear. That the battle has already been won. He’s paid the price for each one of us, “For I have redeemed you…” and He calls His children by name, which means WE are His. This first sentence shuts Satan down. Satan can’t call my name with any authority or ownership over me. He can sit on the sidelines and push the storm in front of me – taunting me – but he can not harm me. It is the very next sentence though that answers my question of why my heart hurts when I am in the shelter of the Most High: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Surrender does not mean the storm isn’t going to touch me. It doesn’t mean that I will not feel the effects of it. But it does mean that it will not kill me and it will not overtake me. It will not leave me there so long and do so much damage to me that I can not survive. I understand that a burn victim can die just from the physical pain of the burn, but God says here that I won’t get burned while I am facing and walking through the fire.
Know anyone else who was put into the fire and didn’t get burned? Those dudes (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) weren’t set to “walk” through the fire. They were bound up, thrown in, and locked tight into the furnace while people watched, and they were not burned.
All this came about because the ruler of the day, Nebuchadnezzar, had decided that all the people in the kingdom must bow down to an idol built in his likeness whenever the palace musicians blew their horns or played their music. Sounds so much like the narcissistic enemy of our souls and seems to directly correlate to the cries of our social media-driven world demanding all to bow down to everything that is contrary to what God asks of us.
“Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace.
The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
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.”
Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”
Daniel 3:19-28 NIV
Our ruler here threw a hissy fit because his palace snitches were pointing out that these three men were disrespecting him by not following his decree to give him glory and honor. I love this story. I love when God leaps down from heaven and steps right into our midst. When He takes the heat and shelters us from the storm while the onlookers are expecting you to burn up. . . and you don’t. God could have done many different things here. He could have put the fire out or not allowed the fire to start before the men were thrust inside. That would have seemed more logical. “Hey, the stove won’t light, not sure why!” He could have changed the mind of Nebuchadnezzar. After all, these men worked for him as high ranking officials. They were “set over the affairs of the province.” These men could have been brought before him and God could have easily caused a change of heart within Nebuchadnezzar. But He didn’t. God let the story unfold as the “world” saw fit and stepped inside the story as a protector or as Nebuchadnezzar saw, “a son of the gods.” There was a fourth person in that fire and was somehow recognized as different than the three that were thrown in. I am not sure how that happens, seems to me that they would have all been glowing, but that was not the case. This is a miracle of epic proportion that turned around the demand for glory and honor for one man to a view of The Most High God that caused a full, instant, real transformation of the heart. Nothing else except getting into the furnace would have had that effect on those watching. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego trusted in their faithful God, by being obedient even to death (if necessary). “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (3:16-18 NIV)
They were committed to God, no matter the cost because they knew God was committed to them through the cost (of which God had already paid – in full). They believed the promises of God and understood that in order for the promise to come to fruition a process had to take place. Their bottom line was to glorify and give honor to The One True God and only Him.
My storm, your storm, has a purpose. I have to pass through it. Oh God could certainly undo it all right now if that would bring Him Glory and Honor, but more than likely the fire has to rage and the storm has to pour for God’s hand of protection to be seen by those who need to see God in it.
I don’t live in a bubble. More people than I realize are watching my storm. I had someone bring up my storm yesterday, someone that I had no idea knew and that painful reminder surfaced all over again that people know and are talking and wondering how I am going to handle it. In the privacy of my own home, my heart aches and the tears fall. But you should know that about me because I am no different from you when you hurt and sorrow floods the walls of your heart. Honestly, I am preaching these scriptures to myself as I struggle through the resurfacing of old wounds and the surfacing wreckage of the current storm. You are reading my thoughts as I walk through pain and apply God’s soothing word to it. I find so much comfort within the pages of scripture because The God who created me gave me His Word as my owner’s manual. These truths penetrate my broken heart, give me hope, show me rest, and pull me up out of the deep waters that threaten to overtake me. But I can trust, and so can you, that neither the waters, the rivers, nor the fire will overtake me. This means that I can tell the fear go to hell, like Bryan and Katie Torwalt sing in their song, Prophesy Your Promises. Timothy 1:7 tells me, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” God tells me not to fear in Isaiah 43:1 because He’s already paid the price and won the battle. That means that the fear I am facing isn’t just NOT from God, but I also shouldn’t hang on to it. It doesn’t need to exist. Those three men who walked into the furnace didn’t fear. They knew their God so well that fear wasn’t even part of the equation. Oh, that is where I want to rest.
Pain hurts and can’t be avoided. Oh, I wish it could. Pain doesn’t mean I am not in the shelter of the Most High. And it doesn’t mean God isn’t with me. The storm is going to hurt. Don’t give up on God. Keep holding on to Him, you will not drown. I will not drown, no matter how long I have to be in it.
Oh my dear Lord, I will choose to reside in Your shelter and in Your shadow. Forgive my unbelief when the ground beneath my feet falters and fear wants to take me down to the deepest part of the waters. Walk beside me and shelter me like you have done so many times before and remind me over and over again that you are there. Thank you for never leaving me alone, for stepping out of heaven and taking the heat, holding back the flood, and calling me by name unto yourself. I give you glory and honor through this storm. Use me to change the hearts of a nation who bow to anything but you. You alone are worthy of my praise. Amen.
A few songs that have been ministering to me: