In the last two years and three months, I have watched my family crumble. Once again I am faced with the faith-shaking truth that, frequently, following God is ferociously difficult. You see, we were called to adopt teens out of foster care and the consequences of that action on our four biological daughters and on our extended family have been huge. When we stepped out in faith and brought our new daughters into our home we introduced a level of darkness caused by their past into our home that we never could have imagined.
And this isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this type of reward in exchange for obedience. The last time I set out on a major faith-walk, moving across an ocean and leaving my island paradise to home-school my children in the desert, I was rewarded with the four toughest years of my life. Four years battling my demons, isolated in a desert. Four years of constant tears, and curling up in the fetal position, and overwhelming sorrow. Four years of wondering if I had heard God correctly.
But I learned so many lessons in that desert. Learned to press into the Lord faithfully. Learned that all I needed was him. Learned that the stars are brightest when the sky is darkest. I eventually got to experience the sweet fruit of faithfulness. You’d think, though, that the experience would have also taught me stepping out in faith doesn’t result in easy strolls though fragrant meadows but rather, navigating through impossible situations where, when it all works out, all we can do is gasp, “That could only have been God.”
Apparently it didn’t; the battles that have come along with fostering have left me disheartened and questioning God again. Did I really hear you correctly, Daddy?
Before you scold me for being melodramatic, it isn’t just me. Scripture shows putting obedient followers into impossible situations to be a favorite move of the God we love and serve.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego obeyed God, bowing down to no one but him. Yet they weren’t rescued from the fire for their faithfulness. They were thrown straight into the fiery furnace.
Moses believed God at that burning bush and rerouted his whole life only to be met with constant opposition from the most powerful man in the world at the time, culminating in him running for his life and the lives of all the Israelites, a fierce chariot riding army bearing down on him and an impassable red sea before him.
And those Israelites who eventually followed Moses out of Egypt, trusting he was speaking for God? They experienced 40 years of wandering in a desert for their troubles, utterly dependent on the mercy of God. Forty years of hunger and thirst, plague and discipline.
David and Daniel. Elijah and Esther. Joseph and Job. Scripture is bursting with faithful servants of God who, as a direct result of their obedience, experienced bleak outlooks, painful realities, and impossible odds.
And in our favorite stories, God steps in at the last moment and saves the day. The red seas part, the bread multiples, the plot is uncovered, the lion’s mouth is closed. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego emerge from the flames, unscathed! The hero overcomes!
But there are times, friend, there are times when he does not. When faithful servants were obedient and they were not rescued. When, by any human standard, it did not work out in the end. John died in jail. Steven was stoned. Lot lost his home and his wife. Moses never got to enter that promised land. Jesus himself, faithful and obedient every moment of every day of his life, died on the cross in agony and the world went dark.
And the thing is, I don’t know which kind of story this is going to be. Right now, I’m wading so deep through broken. There has been division and there has been destruction. We are watching our six kids struggle and suffer and for most of them, run from God. I do not know if we will see redemption for my daughters. There is no guarantee that God will step in and save the day. Frighteningly, as scripture demonstrates, he might… but then again, he might not.
We may not ever know why we were asked to do this, at least not this side of heaven. Yet, I have to trust that God knows what he is doing, even when things don’t seem to work out.
And this, this IS the place, where my faith is truly tested. Because faithfulness is rewarding when I expect restoration. Obedience makes sense when the miracle is right around the corner. Faith-walking is a whole lot easier when I’m confident that I’m headed towards “happily ever after”.
My prayer is that God restores this family. I know he can. I know he will.
But even if He doesn’t…
Even if he doesn’t, may we continue to love and serve him.
…our God whom we serve is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will rescue us from 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 nor worship the golden statue that you have set up.”Daniel 3: 17b-18, NASB