In the book of Daniel, the king Nebuchadnezzar made a decree to all under his rule, to worship the graven image that he himself constructed, and anyone who refused would be burned alive.
There were certain Jewish men in that city who were over the affairs of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego who did not heed to the demands of the king and give in to the temptation of worshiping false idols. Word got around back to the king about this and he was furious. He belittles them and scorns them for not worshiping the golden image and mocks Deity by saying “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” His pride and wealth made him a selfish and haughty man. The 3 Jewish men responded with this:
“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.”
The next verse is critical and one that is similar to many responses of prophets in the scriptures when faced with troublesome experiences-
“But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
The story ends with the king barking orders to his soldiers to increase the heat of the flames, and in that process, the soldiers themselves died as they were throwing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the furnace. The king thought he had won, but to his utter surprise, found the men unbound from their shackles, and standing unharmed in the fire with an additional figure with them (the Savior). The king became instantly converted to the Lord’s church.
What great faith those 3 men had. They basically told the king they knew the Lord would protect them, but if not, they still wouldn’t worship false idols.
The prophet Abinadi in the Book of Mormon was faced with a similar threat of death if he didn’t stop preaching the gospel. He refused the demands of King Noah, and as a result was burned to death by fire. His final words were a complete faith and confidence in God and a surety of what he knew to be true.
How many times in our lives have we had “but if not’s” and stayed true to what we knew in our hearts? I know I haven’t been as faithful as I should at times, specifically with some recent health issues.
4 years ago I experienced a moving accident while helping a friend lift a solid oak dresser. I threw out my back and tried to shrug off the pain for a while. But I couldn’t ignore the fact that something was wrong. After numerous tests were done, it was concluded that I should have a lumbar fusion to fix the issue. I was 28 at the time and I immediately shot down that option. I thought to myself “Why in the world would I have that kind of operation so young?” One night as I was saying a prayer, I got the strong impression that I needed to have the operation. So I talked with my loved ones and scheduled the surgery.
It turns out that the operation caused more problems than good-my back fused almost too straight and I developed “flat back syndrome”, my lumbar curve ceased to exist. I went to another doctor and he suggested taking out my hardware to see if that would improve my quality of life. That surgery was done 2 months before my wedding and I was full of emotions and questions.
That didn’t solve my problem and I had to drop out of school and spent more time at physical therapy than in my own bed it seemed. My “but if not” was becoming a reality. No, I was not faced with a life ending decision, and I wasn’t looking death in the face, but to me it felt like my life stopped and I was stuck.
I had another operation in November of 2015 and since then I have seen some improvement. I spent many nights wondering how my life might have been different had I not decided to go under the knife in 2012-I would have graduated college, worked towards my vocal apprenticeship, and started looking for job opportunities. Those thoughts ran through my mind constantly and I did not find a way out of frustration.
I received a priesthood blessing not too long ago that changed my life for the better. In that blessing I was told that the decisions I have made in the last few years were the right ones, and that the Lord was guiding my path and paving the way for my success. I had angels in my “fire” so to speak-my wife, my family, my friends and leaders. My refiner’s fire was molding me and shaping my path.
Sometimes we may be faced with decisions and we know we made the right choice, but curveballs get thrown at us and we start to doubt. I still have my doubts but I have a sure knowledge that God is aware of me and knows how to help.
The Savior Himself who has suffered more than we can comprehend, had a “but if not” experience that was more difficult than anything anyone has or will experience. His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane was a difficult task and He asked for a way out. But His “nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done.” phrase is the greatest example of obedience and faith.
I can take comfort in the fact that when we make mistakes, the Lord will be there to succor us. Not only when we make mistakes, but when we make what we know to be a right decision, and a fork in the road alters our course for our good, the Lord is there to guide and direct each individual.
The fires of life cannot consume us when the Savior is on our side.