For many years now, I’ve been reassured by the Bible story of Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They had an incredibly tough time, getting thrown into a blazing furnace. Before that happened, they said that they believed God would rescue them but even if he does not they would still believe. That even if he does not kind of belief has kept me going through many hard times.
A few months ago I was reminded about this story. Hillsong released a song with the title, ‘There’s another in the fire’, another reference to my ancient friends. They were thrown into the furnace and returned unscathed. When they were in, the king who’d thrown them there saw a fourth figure walking round with them. We don’t know if the three men saw he was there though.
Sometimes, it is impossible to see any comforting presence when we are in our own furnace. Sometimes, another person can reassure us that we were not alone. Sometimes we just need to cling onto our even if he does not faith.
I was thinking about that at the weekend when I was in the MRI machine, my personal furnace. The radiographers did not speak to me as the machine roared, banged and shook. Once, they asked me to keep very still and I said, ‘can you hear me?’ No answer. I prayed. No answer. I reminded myself that help is near. Even when we don’t see it. That day I did encounter ‘fourth figures’. A man smoking by the entrance showed me how to get in. Afterwards another man walked me the whole way out when I got lost. My own man went in to get me, after me telling him I was very shaky. He came looking, without my knowledge. He was there when I didn’t even know it.
What is your furnace right now? Do you know that you’re not alone, even when you feel it? Who is your fourth person? Who can you be that fourth person for?
My prayer for you all is that you would know the Other in the fire. God isn’t in the business of putting out our fires, but He makes very sure He is right there with us. It’s a mystery that I find hard to accept sometimes, but that doesn’t make it any less true.