I like Facebook for many reasons - keeping up with my friends and family, seeing their photos and sharing mine, sharing links to interesting articles - but typically, Facebook reminds me of those newsletters people used to send with their Christmas cards. Nearly always only good news: “We bought a new house,” “Susie got a scholarship,” “Little Johnny is speaking full sentences at one year old,” “Alice can speak 3 languages and play 5 instruments.” You didn’t often see news about all the messy stuff going on in everyone’s lives. Same with Facebook -- sometimes you see prayer requests and heartfelt stories, but mostly your news feed is full of wonderful things happening to wonderful people.
For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about this and wondering if I have inadvertently been sending the message that because God loves you, I think your life will be problem-free and wonderful, like the updates we see in Facebook. Afraid not, BUT the message I do mean to send is, because God loves you, God will always be with you -- whatever happens. Messy, good, wonderful, horrible, scary, hopeful, seemingly hopeless, whether it feels like you’re in a beautiful dream or a terrible nightmare, God is with you and he loves you.
Many of you know the Bible story of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego in the book of Daniel. In it, 3 friends get thrown into a “fiery furnace” to be killed because they would not obey the king’s orders to bow down to an idol. After they were thrown into the fire:
Astonished, King Nebuchadnezzar stood up in terror, and asked his advisors, “Didn’t we throw three men into the fire, bound firmly with ropes?”
In reply they told the king, “Yes, your majesty.”
“Look!” he told them, “I see four men walking untied and unharmed in the middle of the fire, and the appearance of the fourth resembles a divine being.” (Daniel 3:24,25)
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego emerged from the fire with “no effect on their bodies—not a hair on their head was singed, their clothes were not burned, and they did not smell of fire.” (Daniel 3:27) As in this story, Jesus is beside you even in the depths of despair.
In this particular story, Jesus prevents harm to the 3 men. In our lives (and the lives we read of in the Bible), that does not always happen. Harm does happen. Life is difficult. It is not fair. The fact remains: God loves you.
Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 136:26)