This one comes to us from Kristi Crum.

In this time of social distancing, it has been interesting to witness how different people respond to the coronavirus and the fears it has wrought. This week, I realized my own response finds its root in my ultimate fear, “Am I doing or being enough?”

Recently, as I ventured out to our Farmer’s Market, I played out this recurring fear once again. Locking my apartment, I readied myself for the scary outdoors and began to think: I can wear my gloves as it is pretty chilly. I will wear a mask or cloth over my face. It’s early, so hopefully the crowd will be thin and no one will get too close. Quickly finding what I needed at the market, I headed back to my apartment. Meanwhile the blue skies beckoned. I dropped off my bag and headed back out for a walk by the river, where I’ve persuaded myself the air is “cleaner.” Of course, my fear of contaminating my apartment with the possible germs from the Farmer’s Market kept me from getting my headphones, which were further inside the apartment. No reason to be reckless, right?

Without my headphones, I now had time with my own thoughts and hence my fears. On my repetitive mental playlist – regardless of the situation – plays a song that’s rather long: “Are you doing enough? Are you being enough for the people who need you? And ultimately are you doing or being enough for God to be pleased?”

This is why the little “buts” found in scripture have become so meaningful to me. They are where God reverses the course of scripture and what I think in my flesh and instead amazes me with His truth, His actions, and His grace. The “buts” are where I can lay down my striving and condemnation and turn to His work and imputed righteousness. Hence, the comfort I find in the two “buts” found in Daniel 3:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and … cast them into the burning fiery furnace. … Then [he] was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

Verse 18 has always been a beautiful reminder that I can trust and praise God not only in the “but God” blessings of Ephesians 2 but also in the “but if not” found here. God may not always answer my prayers or work out things like I think He should, but His ways are not my ways. When my prayers aren’t answered the way I wanted, I can say like these three men, “But if not … I will still not worship the false gods I am all too eager to worship, but instead praise You.”

Do I always do this? Sadly, no. Yet the good news of the gospel sets me free from thinking it is up to me to do enough or be enough. This virus has revealed that my heart still longs to “worship” at the altar of my control. And if I’m too stressed out, I can then reach for coffee, baked goods, my iPhone (disinfected, of course), or any other comfort that can so easily be my substitute god.

However, the bigger “but” is found in verse 25:

But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.

All my life I was “taught”, as most good Pharisees are, to be like these guys and praise God even if my life was threatened. (“Dare to be a Daniel” was always the next lesson). The do-more, be-more track is so catchy and easy to “groove” to. Yet the bigger “but” is that He is there with us regardless of how hot the fire gets and regardless of my response to the fire. The hero of this story and every other “story” in the bible is Jesus. (Thank you Jesus Storybook Bible and Sally Lloyd Jones for this beautiful reminder). The good news of the gospel is that Christ is with me because I am His, not because I have more faith, not because I praise Him more, not because of anything about me. The good news of the gospel is all about Him. His blood and righteousness cover me and make me righteous not just once, but every single time I struggle and even if I fail continuously.

He is there with us in this fire called the coronavirus. He promises to never leave or forsake us; we are His beloved. Whether we are the ones who joke about it, stress about it, or judge those who deal with this differently than we do, we can rest in this “but” of Daniel 3:25. There is One in this fire with us.

I can never do enough or be enough. If I could, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to come. His ways may not be ours and His thoughts we may never understand this side of heaven. But we can trust Him to be with us. We can cling to Christ, and ultimately we can trust that He is clinging to us.

Image credit: Toom0007