Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Storm clouds are gathering.
I’m talking about the Gospel readings for the week. But I could just as well be talking about world news. A thoughtful consideration of the readings, then, can help shed light on the question: What guidance does faith offer when storm clouds gather in the world, or in our lives?
In conjunction with the growing tension in the Gospel readings, the Church gives us a complementary set of readings from the Hebrew Scriptures. The first is the story of Susanna, who is falsely accused of adultery (see Daniel 13). In the face of the accusation — the penalty of which is death — she surrenders her life completely to the Lord. Then, at the last moment, as she’s being led to execution, God intervenes, raising up the young prophet Daniel to reveal that her accusers have lied. Susanna is saved from death.
The story of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego (see Daniel 3) is even more highly charged. They refuse to worship the idol set up by King Nebuchadnezzar, who resolves to throw them into the fiery furnace. This time, God’s faithful servants are not saved at the last moment from the fire. Rather, God intervenes and saves them in the midst of the fire!
Similarly, all week long, the tension surrounding Jesus is rising.
The witness He gives to His identity and mission deepens, becoming more and more explicit.
The fruit of that witness deepens, too. So we hear this refrain repeated throughout the week: “Many came to believe in Him.”
But opposition to Jesus deepens, as well. So, we see another theme repeated with growing intensity. “No one arrested Him” — which means they were thinking about it. “They picked up stones to throw at Him” — we’re on the brink of aggravated assault. And, finally: “From that day on, they planned to kill Him” — now it’s premeditated.
Everyone can see where this is headed. How will God intervene?
This is where it can be helpful, for our own lives, to put ourselves back in the situation. We know the bedrock assumption: God will intervene. But there’s a basic uncertainty, and we know it in our own lives: Will God intervene by saving Jesus from death, as He did with Susanna, or by walking with Him through the fire, as He did with Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego?
So often, when we pray about the gathering storm clouds in our lives, we ask God to save us from the fire. And that’s a legitimate prayer! Sometimes God does just that for His faithful people.
But it’s important to remember that sometimes God intervenes by walking with His faithful people through the fire.
Whatever trials we face, we know this pattern from all salvation history, and most especially from the life of Jesus: Sometimes God saves us from the fire, and sometimes He walks with us through the fire. Either way, He is always with us. They key is to surrender ourselves completely to Him.
May God bless us with faithfulness and trust when storm clouds gather.