“But Even If Not…”
In Daniel 3, we see a story of immense courage from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who faced a grave choice: worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s false idol or be thrown into a fiery furnace so hot even the guards nearby couldn’t handle the heat.
The three boys chose to stand up for their faith and refused to worship anyone but the one true God, and King Nebuchadnezzar kept his promise and tossed them into the flames.
Talk about the courage to stand up for your faith, right? But while facing a fiery furnace in support of your faith is noble, I think the most courageous part of the story is often overlooked.
People often think that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were certain that God would save them, but verses 17-18 tell us the opposite is true. They respond to King Nebuchadnezzar’s threats by saying this:
“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.” (emphasis mine)
They were confident that God COULD save them, but they were not confident that God WOULD save them. And the courage shown in those four little words, “but even if not,” reveals a faithfulness and steadfastness like few others. It would have been easy to show courage if they were certain of the outcome. Instead, they showed faithfulness to God in the face of uncertainty, and that’s where the real courage lies.
The phrase “but even if not” has become a sort of mantra for me. I’ve been in a period of waiting and asking for several months, praying fervently about several situations with unknown endings. My husband works at a job he enjoys but is still searching for a position in what he loves. My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer and started treatments to beat this awful disease. I launched an online business in the middle of partial employment and depleted savings.
All that to say, there are a lot of things up-in-the-air right now, with endings I cannot see nor control.
My prayers have focused on these needs and worries, but the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego has taught me to ask for guidance and healing while also declaring “But even if not”. I know God can lead my husband to the right job, but even if He does not, I will still choose to worship Him. I know God can heal my dad of the cancer that eats away at his vocal cords, but (and this is really hard to write) even if He does not, I will choose to praise Him. I know God can do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine in my new adventure, but even if not, I will still choose Him.
The courage to say this phrase lets me ask God for what I want but also reminds me that God is worthy of my praise even if I don’t get what I want. The example of three boys standing up to a King even though they are uncertain of how their fates will end teaches me to live courageously by not only facing challenges, but by choosing to worship God even in the unknown or undesirable endings.
Update” since this was written in early December: My husband Ryan found a youth pastor position in the Braselton area, and we couldn’t be more excited for this new opportunity. Big praise there! My dad has finished treatments, but we’re still waiting on final test results coming late March. Big praise here too, but not quite across the finish line just yet.