ok, confession first, then explanation. I am a closet claustrophobic. That’s right, it’s true. I hide it well, I take the elevator (and hold my breath) but I don’t like feeling hemmed in. What does this have to do with COVID-19?, you ask.
Well, with each new restriction imposed in my state, I feel an increased sense of the walls closing in. (metaphorically, of course) but the feeling is real, nonetheless. And the restrictions do limit our movement. There are restrictions on travel and on work and on where one can and can’t go. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, further restrictions just went into effect, when I thought things couldn’t get any more restrictive.
This is a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare. A nightmare which only got worse when I opened the blinds this morning and saw nothing – not the house across the street nor the trees behind my house – I saw nothing- the world had disappeared into a thick blanket of fog, making my self isolation complete. The fog carried with it a feeling of true isolation.
So here I am in this furnace (trial) all alone and yet not alone. There is a wonderful truth I want to share with you all, dear readers. It is revealed in Daniel 3:24-25. “Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, ‘Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’ ”
Now a little backstory here. These are Daniel’s three friends that the king had ordered thrown into a blazing furnace, heated seven times hotter than normal. The king was having them killed in this very public way because they had refused to worship an image of gold he had commanded them to worship.
But notice something surprising. We are told the three men were tied up before being thrown into the furnace. “He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace.” (Daniel 3:19-20)
This story has a happy ending in that all three survive their ordeal, their time spent in the furnace without so much as a trace of ill effect. “They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.” (Daniel 3:27) But that is not the surprising part.
What is unexpected is that while they were still in the furnace, they were described by the king who was watching them as “unbound and unharmed”, and as “walking around.” And the other significant thing is that they were not alone in their furnace, there was a fourth “like a son of the gods” walking with them in their fiery furnace.
I always thought I would not be unbound and unharmed until I was through with my trial and safely past it. But the experience of these three men, reminds me that I can be unbound, (free) and unharmed (safe) while still in my trial. Daniel’s friends were bound before they even entered the furnace. But they were set free in the furnace, not after it.
Who could imagine that our trials are able to free us from whatever has us bound, whatever has been holding us hostage, without our even being aware of it? As my circumstances become more restrictive daily, I realize I am unbound, nevertheless. I am free to choose my response to the circumstances in which I now find myself.
I am free to reach out to others, to offer solace and support – I am free to worship, to pray, to write, to phone a friend, to find new ways to connect with those I cannot see face to face. I am free to choose how I will spend this time; in fear or in faith, in despair or in hope, in panic or in peace, in seeking self or in seeking God. I am free to choose.
The theme of COVID-19 is isolation. The revelation of the furnace is that I am not in the furnace alone. My God is right there, walking around beside me, every step of the way. It is His presence that makes all the difference. His presence brings the comfort, the peace, and the hope necessary to endure the furnace and to survive it. His presence will see me through. In the meantime, I am already unbound and unharmed because of my Heavenly Father’s presence abiding with me, even in this furnace.
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:7-10)
sincerely, Grace Day