One of my absolute favorite accounts from the Bible is the one found in Daniel 3 about the three friends who are facing the fire because of their unwillingness back down from their beliefs. I love the pure, courageous faith that we see from these young men who stand up to the most powerful king reigning on earth, even when they didn't know what the outcome would be. The crowning moment of their faith comes in verses 17 and 18 when they say, "If it be so our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image you have set up." Don't miss the even if He does not part of this story! They didn't know the outcome when they made their stand. They didn't know that not only would they walk around in the fire unharmed, they would see the 4th man - the Son of God!
Yes, this story has a glorious ending, but what makes it all the more spectacular is the fact that they didn't know that ending when they exercised their faith.
I was so grateful for their example when I was pregnant with Poppy, because more than anything else, I wanted their kind of faith. I wanted to trust God completely before I knew the outcome, even when I was close enough to feel the fire hot on my neck. Jesus answered that prayer, and even as they were wheeling me to the delivery room, I knew that I could say in my heart, "God, you can heal her and make her whole, but even if you do not, I will still serve you." In my story God did not choose to answer in the same way that he did with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, but don't think for one minute that He didn't deliver me, because He did! Let me explain how.
Recently I have been doing Beth Moore's Bible study on Daniel, and I love her insight into this passage in particular. She says that God always delivers His children from the fire, but the ways He chooses to do it are distinctly different. For some, He chooses to deliver them from the fire, for others he delivers them in the fire, and still for others He delivers them through the fire. This perspective helps me step back and take a look at my life and see the ways God has delivered me already through all the fires, small and big, I have encountered in my life so far.
Sometimes - undoubtedly many more times than I realize - God has chosen to deliver me from a fire by allowing me not to have to face it at all. Only He knows the hurts He has saved me from as He has held me in His hand, safe from everything that He doesn't allow. I admit openly that this is the kind of deliverance I pray for! Yet I also realize that this type of deliverance, while much more comfortable, does not result in the same gut-wrenching faith that brings me closer to Jesus. The next two types definitely do.
The second type of deliverance is the kind the men in Daniel 3 experienced. It wasn't until they were right in the middle of the fire that they were saved from the heat. When I think about this in modern terms, I think about those who are healed miraculously from cancer's deadly hold, or the amazing testimonies like those of Corrie Ten Boom who was miraculously delivered from the clutches of a Nazi concentration camp just days before her death was to come. God is still in the business of working miracles, just as he was in the days of ancient Babylon when these three men walked through the fire.
The final category of deliverance is the hardest one to accept at face value, but bit by bit God is giving me new eyes to understand how sometimes instead of saving us from the fire, or in the fire, he saves us through the fire. What that means is that even when the fire seems to consume, what it has really done is taken that person straight to Jesus for the perfect deliverance - the one that makes broken bodies whole and frees them from all traces of this earth. This type of fire usually results in death for the physical body, making it so hard to accept for those of us left behind, but in the light of eternity, I know I will finally be able to see it just as He does. I know this is how He chose to save Poppy. He chose to take her through the fire, allowing her to know Him immediately and leave her broken body behind before she even realized that it was sick.
I believe almost all of us have lost someone who has been delivered through the fire, straight into God's arms. Whether it is through a battle with disease, a sudden tragedy, or infant death, it is always so hard for those of us who are left behind. But just as God is faithful to deliver those through death, He will be faithful to those who are left behind. We are stronger from having walked along the fire's edge with our loved one, and through the heat, we have been refined.