by Rob Tims
Two years ago, my wife and I drove to southeast Florida to see friends and preach at a church the Sunday before Thanksgiving. From there, we were to head west to Venice, FL and visit my mother who was a few years into her battle with ALS.
Our youngest was a newborn, so neither he or nor we were yet sleeping through the night. And the night before we were to leave to see my mother, one of our older boys got the flu. So at 2:00 PM EST in Boca Raton, FL, we decided to skip Thanksgiving in FL so as not to expose my mother to ALS, and instead drive all the way home to Nashville in one push.
The drive was miserable, not least of all because of the way the flu was wreaking havoc on my son and the anxiety of feeling like it would take over all of us in the van at any moment. Traffic was horrendous in places, and I finally had enough south of Valdosta, GA. I rented two rooms on Priceline (one for quarantine purposes), and just when things seemingly could not get worse, we weathered a torrential, tornadic storm of seemingly biblical proportions for the last half hour into town.
There are more serious life moments in which we ask, “Could it possibly get worse?” A life-threatening diagnosis. A pink slip. A family crisis.
Perhaps the people of Israel were saying the same thing when Babylon took control of Jerusalem, as Daniel 1:1-2 describes.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it. 2 The Lord handed Jehoiakim king of Judah over to him, along with some of the vessels from the house of God. Nebuchadnezzar carried them to the land of Babylon, to the house of his god, and put the vessels in the treasury of his god.
Yet in the midst of this description of very bad times for God’s people, there are two things we must remember when things seemingly can’t get any worse.
First, God is sovereign. Did you see this in verse 2? The Lord HANDED over Judah to Babylon. This may or may not be the case for our dark moments. We cannot know. But what we can know is that God leads us and is sovereign over all things, horrible circumstances included.
Second, there are always obstacles to and opportunities for great faith in these dark times. For the men described in Daniel 1:3-7, there was both a great opportunity for these men to positively impact Babylon for good, and yet also the great obstacle of becoming assimilated into Babylonian culture. The same is true for us in our dark times: opportunities for great faith, and obstacles to great faith.
In studying Daniel 1, I came across this little nugget: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah … the four men taken into custody … their names have the following meanings: God is your judge (Daniel); God is gracious (Hananniah); There is no God like God (Mishael); God has helped (Azariah). What better things to remember when things in life can’t seem to get any worse: God is your judge; God is gracious. There is no god like God; God has helped.
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.