I used to be afraid to talk about evil.
Not in a He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named way, where naming it somehow brings it about. Rather, I didn’t like to call things evil because I wasn’t sure what qualified as “evil” rather than just “bad”.
I’m more comfortable with calling evil where I see it now. Maybe I’m aware of more terrible evils than I used to be, or maybe I’m becoming more accustomed to the presence of evil in the world.
This week, especially with the situation with ISIS in the Middle East, the beheadings and persecution and kidnappings and terror, I’ve spent more time than usual contemplating evil in the world at large and in my own experience.
Sometimes Evil looks you right in the face and says, “What god is going to save you now?”
It’s what happened to those 21 Christians murdered last week. It’s what Nebuchadnezzar said to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego before sentencing them to be burned alive. It’s what the sin and doubt and evil in my own heart whisper to me during seasons of suffering, late into the sleepless nights.
Our response to this question, and the power and faithfulness of God himself, does not hinge on our unwavering confidence that God will come through and rescue us from our circumstances.
Those Christians last week died at the hands of other men. God did not stop their blades.
In my life and in my friends’ and family’s lives, there is pain and evil that has not yet been overcome. There is cancer and divorce and infertility and mental illness. There is loss and hopelessness and fear. There are messy middles and hard beginnings and unexpected endings.
And the truth of the matter is I do not know that God will deliver us from this.
Neither did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They admitted that God was powerful enough to save them, but that he might choose not to.
I’ve wondered why the book of Daniel even records that brief moment of doubt. God did, in fact, come through and save those three boys in a miraculous and spectacular show of power. Why include verse 18 at all? Why didn’t they stop with verse 17? “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.”
In verse 17 we see that they are confident and they are faithful, but in verse 18 we see too that they are afraid.
“But even if he doesn’t…”
I believe that light is always more powerful than darkness. But I do not believe that I will see all darkness made light.
The question that defines doubt is not “Do I believe God will solve my problems?”
The question that defines doubt is “Do you trust me?”
Whether or not I believe God will show up as a man of light and save me from the fiery furnace of my circumstances does not define my faith. I do not need to spend time wrestling with how God is going to stop the evil forces at work in the world.
I need to spend time working out my trust in God. Do I trust that He is at work in a world where I also see evil at work? Do I trust that He loves me and you and everyone else and acts in accordance with that love?
Because when evil steps up to the plate and says, “What god is going to save you now?” my response can only, ever, always be: Love.
Love is going to save us now.