Daniel has always captured my heart. His life is a testament to living on purpose for God not matter what comes to pass. He was captured, taken from his family and friends, forced to worship and work under a pagan kingdom, and was renamed. No longer could he be the man he set out to be and was taught to be by his family. Imagine being stripped of your identity and renamed.
Daniel 1:8 “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank….”
It was not so much that Daniel was a vegetarian and did not believe in drinking wine, it was the pagan practice of offering the food and wine to pagan Gods, and the determined heart of Daniel to remain faithful to His God.
Ezra, like Daniel, “prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” Ezra 7:10
Ezra read and shared God’s Holy Word to the people from early morning until noon everyday until the entire Word was read and understood. He purposed to know God’s Word and to make sure the people understood every line during a chaotic time. They were building and protecting their homeland and temple while Ezra was taking the time to rebuild and protect their hearts and minds with God’s Word. All around them was oppression and fear of invasion. Yet, they took the time…..
The antithesis of Daniel and Ezra was Rehoboam who “did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD.” 2 Chronicles 12:14
I just read a post on someone’s blog regarding the quote “God will never give you something you can’t handle”. She searched scripture and the closest verse resembling this quote was 1 Corinthians 10:13 “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
Her experiences dealing with her father’s illness and passing was and continues to be more than she can bear. We are not immune to tragedy, brokenness, and heartache. Like her, I’ve always cringed spiritually inside when someone shared that quote with me, because I was pretty sure I was NOT spiritually handling the situation well. In fact, a recent loss and crisis in my community has brought sleepless nights, racing thoughts, nightmares, and a deep unbearable sadness. I’ve questioned many things and watched the unimaginable happen to the most precious family.
I woke up in the middle of the night wrestling spiritually with God and praying. For “some reason” I checked my phone and a spiritual sister sent me this picture with the message “His burden is light…”
I’ve seen this famous picture many times but what I heard Jesus say to me in my wrestling was this–“No matter what– I love you.” That hammer in his hand symbolizes our “stuff” (sin), making us weak and perhaps feelings of shame and regret, but Jesus is always there lifting, loving, and reminding us of His work.
So life, at times, is unbearable. There is no easy way out. A vacation wont help this sorrow, and you are pretty sure that it will get worse before it gets better. Are you ineffective? unworthy? A spiritual sissy? The enemy would love to convince you of this. He often uses the church to remind us how wimpy we are. Everyone has been there–sitting in church watching everyone who “seemingly” has it all together, and you want to stand up and scream–“I can’t do this anymore! Please help me!” The enemy uses the world around you to convince you that religion is a crutch, have a drink and drown your pain, buy this and you will forget and be happy, go here and your joy will be complete.
I’m convinced that we will not find our answers in a church building or church activity, a bottle of booze, a vacation, or religion. You may get a temporary distraction at best.
I have friends who I called upon last week to send me scripture throughout the day to keep my mind focused on His love, local pastors who called and prayed at just the right time, and quiet time with Jesus in which He spoke to my soul. This happened “to me” really–I’m no spiritual giant who created this scenario, it was God who orchestrated all of this through His people. He was the image above in the picture–holding and reminding.
I want to be like Daniel and Ezra. The only way I see making it through the unimaginable is to purpose our heart and minds on Him. I’m not talking about the Sunday school answer of “Read your Bible and pray”. That can become too robotic if we are not purposing our hearts and minds on the activity. Do we truly believe that every breath is from the Lord. I breathe in–He is with me. I breath out–He loves me. Over and over again, 24/7. I believe that each step is guided by Him and He will be there. The very words I’m reading in His Holy Word are just for me, for that moment, for this day. When I pray, He is listening and will provide direction. If I, like Daniel, were thrown into the lion’s den, stripped of my identity, and renamed–I would truly know beyond a doubt that NOTHING separates me from His love. I may experience sadness, worry, anxiety, and heartache but I KNOW Jesus’ love. I KNOW Him in every fiber of my being.
The word evil is not a pretty word, but Rehoboam did not purpose his heart on the Lord and he did evil. We are all capable of evil–things that hurt others or ourselves. I believe what God was sharing with me in this pretty heavy verse was this….”if you don’t take the time to be in relationship with me–on purpose–you will needlessly suffer”. It wasn’t a dictate in my heart or shaming, it was a reminder of this verse–
Out of my distress I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free and in a large place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?
Some versions call the large place a “spacious place”.
Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit is the only way we will be set free! Freedom in the midst of pain; A spacious place when we feel trapped; His presence at our side when we feel lonely or abandoned; Courage in the midst of the unknown and fear; and a knowledge that “man” –nothing– can separate us from His love.
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28