In the book of the Bible we call Daniel, in the third chapter, we have an intriguing passage. The great King Nebuchadnezzar had set up a big statue of himself. Then he gathered all his royl bureaucrats to the capital city. Once they had arrived, he instructed them to bow down and worship the statue that he had made of himself. It seems he did this to ensure that they all were totally devoted to his cause. But there were these three guys who turned him down as far as the worship thing went. They said,
16 …, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 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.”
When a tragedy like a great storm happens as it did in the Philippines a few months ago, there are survivors who immediately think about giving thanks to God. It seems to be on everyone’s lips – even journalists who otherwise would not invoke God except on a horrific occasion such as the massive tornado. (Oh yeah, Wolf Blitzer found out that not everyone is thanking God, see http://mobile.wnd.com/2013/05/wolf-blitzer-to-atheist-thank-god-right/ after the Moore, Oklahoma tornado in the USA last year) But what about those who did not survive? What about those whose loved ones are dead today? What should they be saying?
In the Bible book of Romans, there is a place where it says, “22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” When the mighty typhoon Haiyan blew through the city called Tacloban in the Philippines, the creation itself groaned in sorrow. When there were flood waters inundating many different areas in the world last year, the creation groaned. When people are faced with difficulties that tax their ability to cope to the breaking point; the creation itself groans.
We do not know what to pray sometimes. Other times God seems so far away. Sometimes God seems to not care as the three friends at the mouth of the fiery furnace could envision. But God is always God. And God is always near. We just do not always know of his holy presence.
Our pain, our loss, our fear, our sadness, our souls groaning and aching for the end of evil all get in the way of sensing God nearby. But if we listen to the creation and we hear the groaning, then we can renew our hope that one day, one day all will be right. We walk by faith today. Not by sight. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction about things not seen. When even we groan, that remains the only way to live.
The Christian faith is a way of life that is committed to the understanding that God is in charge of all the universe. We do not always understand the ways of God. Nor do we always have a way to calmly face the dire circumstances we are dealing with. But the Christian faith reminds me that nothing in the world can separate me from the love of God that is mine in Christ Jesus our lord. There are times when those in authority will order us to forget our commitment to the God who is invisible and give our allegiance that an idol that can be seen. But it is at that moment that we can say with the three friends, “the God we serve is able to deliver us …, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 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.” That takes faith.