“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
As I write this devotional, Inheritance of Hope is hosting its first Legacy Retreat in New York City. My prayer is that the seven families gathered there are being blessed with memories, community, and support, just as my life has been changed by these blessings at previous Legacy Retreats. This is the first Legacy Retreat which I have not attended, and my heart hurts to miss meeting the families God has brought together this weekend. Instead I am home recovering from a difficult surgery, feeling broken and useless despite wonderful family support and an ever-patient and encouraging husband. I know those of you who have battled illness and the inevitable treatments know what I am feeling.
Despite my current physical and emotional struggles, it blesses me to think of how Inheritance of Hope families have strengthened me in the past and continue to do so. Those families are among my dearest friends. It blesses me to think of the families on this current retreat blessing one another. It blesses me to think of the amazing volunteers and counselors serving those families. I have received their support, and my children cherish each of them still.
Unfortunately, not all of the families that were scheduled to attend this Legacy Retreat are now in NYC. As is the case with most retreats, unexpected health complications kept two families from attending as planned. This weekend I am especially thinking of those families, perhaps because my own health has kept me from attending this retreat as well. I have recently experienced the fear that comes with harsh treatment, surgery, or unexpected difficulty caused by an illness. I want to share with you something that was a great encouragement to me during this time, something that was shared with me by my wise nephew, Aaron. Here are his words …
In church a few weeks ago, the sermon came from Daniel 3, the story of the three Hebrew young men who stood for their God and were cast into a raging furnace because of it. The pastor's main point was to demonstrate the bold faith of the Hebrews and to encourage us to have that sort of faith, which is well and good, but I was on a very different track.
In verse 25 the king, who was witnessing his ordered condemnation of the three Hebrews, exclaimed in astonishment, "I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods." Upon seeing the deliverance of the Hebrew men, the king orders their release. The text names each of the three men who came out, but there is no more discussion of the divine visitor.
The description of the "son of the gods" is very limited and vague (also called an angel in verse 28), but it is clear that it was a manifestation of the Hebrews' God. When those men were thrown directly and fully into what was intended to be their ultimate destruction, God not only protected them -- He went to be with them Himself! He rescued them in an up close and personal way. In the moment that, by all appearances, should have been their lowest point, a dark point of indescribable agony and certain death, God showed Himself in an intimate way, and His very presence overcame every force of destruction.
I couldn't help but notice the incredible absence of the divine visitor from the story once the men were released. Upon their exit from the fire, the special Godly presence is never seen again -- or even heard from. How could such a spectacular showing of God be left without further mention? There must be more, right? As the silence was screaming at me, a haunting question formed in my mind. I wondered if the Hebrews felt ... disappointment when they came out of the fire and realized their visitor was gone. As they lived that moment, were they yearning for the same thing I yearned for as a reader: "How can such a spectacular showing of God be cut short? There's more, right?" I wonder if they even considered jumping back into the furnace in hopes of regaining that fleeting intimacy with God.
Whether you or a loved one is battling an illness or you are battling another trial in your life, I encourage you to consider the words of Daniel 3. I encourage you to remember the “divine visitor.” As frightened as I was going into this most recent surgery, God was with me there, and He has been every moment since. He is there with you, too. Pray for Him to open your eyes to His presence, and you will recognize the blessings being poured out during your time in the fire. Remember, the greatest blessings come in the furnace.