All the shops were shuttered, hallways vacant, escalators were moving and only a smattering of people were seen, mostly keeping to themselves. This was my experience recently, doing my first venture back into the travel world and navigating a few airports. What has been bustling, busy, focused and populated now feels vacant, eerie and empty. It didn’t help that I saw someone on one of my planes in a full-blown hazmat suit, complete with safety goggles, booties for her shoes, gloves and duct tape around her ankles and wrists. Clearly, she preferred not to chat with me. I suspect she has a medical condition and was flying at great personal risk, so I prayed for her.
Needless to say, my trip was a very strange and different experience for me. While I know that these changes are due to the pandemic situation and I can go through the logical explanations on why stuff is presently like this, it was still very bizarre and somewhat unsettling. As a quick travel tip if you’re flying at this time, bring your own food because most of the airport restaurants are closed.
Going through strange seasons and experiences is something the Bible talks about on lots of occasions. Some of these seasons and experiences relate to being persecuted for faith, navigating unexpected familial changes, working through the consequences of disobeying God and sometimes, life was just flat our bizarre without explanation.
So where could we look in the Bible for some help and wisdom for living in a pandemic, economic contraction, racial conflicts (please read my blog post from last week on “Us and Them”) and whatever personal concerns might be challenging us, on top of everything else?
Lots of scenarios and people come to mind such as: Job, the Israelites in Egypt during the 10 Plagues, the Israelites living in exile with Nebuchadnezzar as the king, Jacob moving to Egypt to flee a deadly famine and find provision and protection under his son’s leadership and lots more. So living in strange times and going through difficult seasons is nothing new for the human race but that doesn’t make this season less intense.
What are some helpful things to do?
Let’s look at the three Hebrew men who survived a furnace experience in Daniel 3 to gain some helpful takeaways. I recognize that the causes are different (the Hebrew men not bowing down to the idol statue), but the crisis and intensity they went through can give us some great applications.
For starters, the Hebrew men decided from the outset that they weren’t going to do the idolatry thing – no bowing down to anyone or anything but the Living God. In the same way, let’s not bow down to anyone or anything (fear, panic, news reports, escapism entertainment, addictive vices, etc.) except Jesus. This season can be a very refining experience to help us keep Jesus as our central focus and worship.
Additionally, as King Nebuchadnezzar intensified the pressure on the Hebrew men, they became all the more committed to worshiping God. They didn’t collapse under the weight of impending death, murderous threats, severe heat nor what seemed to be a hopeless conclusion. What they say in Daniel 3:17-18 is super powerful:
“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of 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 or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Like the Hebrew men, may we keep Jesus as our central love and passion no matter what is melting down around us nor the furnace that could be in front of us!
Finally, it’s supremely important to recognize that Jesus walked in the fiery furnace with the three Hebrew men, because Nebuchadnezzar observed in Daniel 3:25, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” I would suggest that in the midst of a fiery furnace or a severely intense life experience, you can encounter Jesus like you never have before.
No matter what we go through, regardless of economic pressure, health crises, racial conflicts, political elections, sheltering at home or empty airports, let’s keep walking with Jesus, full stop. Ultimately, we were born to live in fellowship with God no matter what we go through or what’s happening around us – because God loves us and wants an ever-deepening relationship with us!