“Hey bud, what’s your favorite Bible story?” I directed the question toward my son who was completely sprawled out on the couch, watching his favorite tv show. I was looking for writing inspiration on the topic of Bible stories and kids. At least this was a start.
“Um,” He thought for a minute, “I think the story of how God gave a bunch of people lunch with only just a little bit of food.”
“Oh yeah?” I asked, “Why?”
“Because, it’s just cool. Like, because there was only a little bit of food but then everyone got full.”
It is a pretty cool story. Jesus is preaching to a crowd of over 5,000 people. When lunchtime comes around, everyone is quite hungry. The disciples find a little boy with a little bit of food – five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus gives thanks for the food and begins dividing it among the crowd. When lunch is over, everyone has eaten until they are more than satisfied, and twelve baskets of leftover food are collected. It is an incredible story of the miraculous abundance that is more than possible with our great God.
But what about those times when the miracle does not come?
Another Bible story comes to mind, one quite familiar to those of us who grew up in the days of flannel graph Sunday School lessons. It is the story of three young men willing to take a stand for the God they loved. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew the law: anyone who does not bow down to the king will be thrown into the fiery furnace. But they also knew the law of their God: worship no one else besides Me.
As these three young men stood facing the red-hot inferno, faces beading with sweat, they spoke these words, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it. But even if He does not, we will not worship your idols.” (Daniel 3:17-18)
Even if He does not.
Sometimes, He does not.
We serve a truly awe-some God. Scripture holds testament to oil streams unending, lifelong disabilities taken away, debilitating illnesses healed, wombs opened, lives raised from death. And our real life, modern day brothers and sisters in Christ retell with great joy stories of cancer retreating, relationships restored, addictions broken, enemies temporarily unable to see. Our God is able – more than able – to do unbelievable things. And we love those stories because they feel so much like winning.
But sometimes, He does not.
Sometimes, there is not enough food. Diseases distort lives. Selfishness overcomes love. Babies die. Shackles remain. Those stories are hard to digest because those stories lack the miraculous, redemptive element that feels like a win. Those stories feel like great loss: one point for darkness, zero for the light.
I love that my son loves the story that shows how big his God is. I love that he smiles at the thought of a little boy his age sharing a meager lunch with thousands upon thousands. I love that he imagines sharing baskets filled with turkey sandwiches, hold the mayo, and nacho cheese Doritos, that is, if it had been his lunch that was shared. I love everything about how he loves that story. But I never want him to think that the miraculous ending is the only one that shows forth God’s power and greatness.
Our God can do anything. I truly believe it. I want my son to believe it. I want him to ask his great God, with all sincerity and faith, to perform big, unthinkable miracles all throughout his life. But I also want him to have the wherewithal and tenacity to know, just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did, that sometimes faith is most decidedly itself in the little space where lies, “Even if He does not …”
Even if He does not, we will be faithful.
Even if He does not, we will believe He is able.
Even if He does not, He is still good.