I’ve never actually been a firefighter, but I’ve heard these folks talk about their job, and I can’t help but compare the ins and outs of firefighting to parenthood.
Firefighters say that if it’s too quiet around the station, it’s usually not a good sign and often means it’s going to be a busy, troublesome night.
Yes, just like parenting. If it’s too quiet, something is up.
Firefighters must be thick skinned and tough in their role.
Yes, just like parenting. Just try saying “no” to a teen who really, really wants to go to that party.
And firefighters are regularly called on to put out small flames in order to keep the fire from getting out of control.
Yes, just like parenting. The days are filled with putting out small fires of frustration, arguments, questions, and debates.
Like a firefighter, I do worry about small “flames” becoming large and unmanageable. I fear that the spiritual doubts will become a fire of faith rejected; I fear that the search for identity will become a fire of low self-worth.
In the book of Daniel, three men of God stand before a fire that threatens to devour them, the flames so hot that the furnace kills the guards. What they say before being thrown into this furnace helps me remember God’s perfect sovereignty even in the face of parenting trials that feel like an all-consuming fire.
Context of Daniel 3
Daniel chapter three opens with King Nebuchadnezzar dedicating his brand new nine-story statue of gold. This pagan king built an idol to himself, and then issued a proclamation for all to hear: “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace” (3:4-6).
What a spectacular sight this would have been. The noise alone would be overwhelming as everyone dropped to their knees, the sea of humans rolling like waves to the ground. But there were three who continued standing: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
These three were Jews, exiled to Babylon, and their refusal to kneel catches the eye of some in the king’s court. Upon hearing of this rebellion, the furious king gives them one more chance to bow to the statue. Standing before the furnace flames and the angry king, these men respond with one of the most beautiful expressions of faith in the one true God.
Our God is Able
The first part of their response is found in verse 16: “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…”
Our God is able. He is able. Do you believe this about God? Do you believe with surety that he is
- Able to give you the strength needed to parent a difficult child?
- Able to reveal himself to a doubting teen?
- Able to give you wisdom in answering tough questions?
- Able to calm your nerves when your teen is driving around?
- Able to help you with indwelling sin that spills over into your parenting?
Do you believe he is able?
He is. Our God is able to do these things and more. Ephesians 3:20-21 affirms that God is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” Read more about the God who is able in Luke 10:17, Romans 15:13, Psalm 147:4- 5, and Matthew 28:18.
Knowing that God is able changes the way I pray because I ask with expectant faith, knowing he is able to do what seems impossible to me.
Our God Will
The men’s response continues: “…and he will deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O King” (vs. 17).
What bold faith! Many read this and hear arrogance. How can a person assert that God will do something? This kind of response is conceited only if we are treating faith like a lucky charm, if we think that having enough faith will make God answer our prayers in the way we see fit.
Faith does not control God.
In our parenting, we need to pray for bold faith in order to trust the author of our children’s stories, believing that God will do his work even in the face of fires that from our perspective seem out of control.
Believing that God will answer our prayers for our children, for our marriages, or for any trying circumstance is a great challenge for many believers. Mostly, we’re afraid of disappointment if he doesn’t answer in the way we’re asking.
I remember talking with a mom who prayed for years for a son who lived in rebellion toward Christianity. In college, he gave his life to Jesus. When I asked her if she was shocked, she said, “How can I be shocked that God answered my prayer? No. I’m not shocked. Just grateful.”
James 1:6 reminds us to pray boldly and to “ask in faith, with no doubting.” Pray eagerly about all matters, including the challenging ones we face with our children. Believe that God will answer and don’t doubt his ability to do it.
But if He Does Not
The last part of their response cannot be missed: “But if not [if he does not deliver us], be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (3: 16).
But if God does not answer in the way we are asking him to, he is still God, and we will still worship him.
In his commentary on Daniel, Rodney Stortz says: “Biblical faith has the assurance to say, ‘I know my God is able to deliver me. It has the confidence to say, ‘I believe that my God will deliver me,’ but it also has the submission to say, ‘But even if he does not, I will still trust him’.”
Sometimes, submission to God can be hard, but it is also so beautiful. As I parent my children, I do so out of love beyond what they understand, but I do it imperfectly. Our Father loves with an unbreakable, unending, and unceasing love. His sovereignty over our children’s lives is not something to fear, but something to rest in.
Not every prayer is answered just in the way we hope it will be, but the flames are no match for our great God.
There may be something today in your parenting that seems insurmountable. Believe God is able, believe that he will, but know that if he does not, he is still in control, he is still loving beyond understanding, and he is still God.
And we will worship him.