Hey guys, I hope your Fourth of July went well. Ours was pretty good. Little E finished up her VBS on Friday. We stayed the night on the U.S.S. Kidd so that was fun. Saturday, we went to my dad’s, Sunday we taught Children’s Church and Monday we hung out at home. Tuesday we went to T’s grandparent’s house for lunch and then to my mom’s for dinner and fireworks! The kids were ecstatic.
For the most part I am too, I had five days off and the majority of them were spent away from my phone and work and chores. I got to soak in my family for a little while. I got to rest…well not really…
See I am in the process of overcoming anxiety. Not the mainstream “OMG I have to be responsible for something, I have such ANXIETY.” kind. The “I’m having a panic attack and literally cannot catch my breath in the middle of the supermarket with my two children” kind. The scary kind. I’ve said before that I’m in therapy and learning how to cope with my history and current stress.
It’s not easy. I find myself not feeling good enough. I compare myself to other moms I see in public. I get depressed over how I avoid doing things with my family. I blame myself for our failures. I take on way too much responsibility and get upset when I cannot maintain it. My mind drives me to believe that I HAVE to do this. If not my world will literally end. My kids will starve, we’ll be homeless, I’ll never get ahead in life.
I get restless and irritable, WHEN will everything get better? When will I feel okay? When will my daughter not worry about me? When will my husband not have to hold me in the middle of the night because of nightmares? The truth I’ve found is that I’m slowly getting there. I’m gaining ground everyday. Like my Desert post, I’m waiting and trusting in God.
One big shortfall I have is getting discouraged by others. Allowing what others think of my walk and convictions get in the way of following through. God brought me to Daniel today. I thought of him, how he survived the lion’s den. How the other presidents conspired and had him thrown in.
There is so much to this Bible story. As children we learn about Daniel and his three friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. We can tell you that they refused to eat the King’s food (Daniel 1:8, 11-12), Daniel was able to interpret dreams (Daniel 2 and 4), They refused to bow down to an idol and were thrown into a fiery furnace (Daniel 3) and lastly, Daniel was able to read the handwriting on the wall for Belshazzar (Daniel 5). Daniel 6 begins the story of the Lions’ Den.
Who was Daniel? Why did God choose him? From the context of the story, customs of that time and history we can see that Daniel and his friends were part of the first group of Hebrews to be taken to Babylon. He was about fifteen years old at the time. It was customary to take those with considerable social standing first. We can see that Daniel was of noble birth. He became a statesman and prophet of God. He was adviser and dream interpreter to Nebuchadnezzar and then his son Belshazzar. When Cyrus conquered the Babylonians, he gave Darius the Mede an area to manage. Daniel then became one of the three presidents that Darius appointed over his 120 Satraps. It is believed he was about 80 years old when he died.
Daniel showed us a few very important character traits. The first was his faith and courage when faced with mortal danger. The second was his complete dedication to God in a pagan society. Third, he set an example for us, an example of persistent prayer.
A close look at scripture gives us a deeper insight into this Sunday school story. Verse four says that the men could find no fault in Daniel. Verse five states “…the laws of his God.” God was visible in Daniel’s life and the other statesmen acknowledged Him. They are certain that even faced with death Daniel would honor God. We’re not sure if it was his honesty or his promotion that made him so persecuted. (probably both) But, either way, the statesmen wanted him out. They couldn’t find any fault in his character so the only way to get rid of him was to make God an enemy of the people.
Verses 6-10 actually hold a lot of important information about the whole situation. Verse 7 in the Hebrew Bible says the men came “tumultuously” or with much excitement/confusion. They made Darius believe it was an urgent matter. In context, they may have made Darius believe it to be a political move. By making a Nationalist month (Verse 8) it could help unify the various groups of people that had been conquered with the Medes and Persians. Their real goal was to make Daniel’s dedication to God seem like disloyalty to the King. In their government, laws could not be changed once put into effect. This seems extreme but in at this time in history it allowed a more stable legal system and protected the nation by causing the ruler to be more deliberate and careful. This is the first of three times the unchangable law is mentioned (Verse 8, 12, 15).
Verse 9-10, Darius signs the law and Daniel goes to his home and prays…. The WAY he prays is incredibly powerful. First he kneels, from other scripture and customs we can see that this is a sign of humility, he is showing his desperation and submission to God. With his windows opened, this shows us two things. His prayer habits must have been common knowledge as he didn’t hide it. He knew he was being watched, this decree was a direct and personal attack on prayer, his prayer. YET, he knelt to pray, with his windows open, facing Jerusalem, facing the Temple, three times….
Except, Jerusalem was deserted, the Temple was destroyed… The Hebrews had been overtaken and their home bore the brunt of the attack. The enemies of Israel desecrated the Holy City, leveled it’s house of worship and carried it’s people into captivity… Why would Daniel pray towards things that no longer existed? Why was he so deliberate to do this, three times a day? He remembered God’s promises. When Solomon dedicated the Temple he pleaded with God (because he was WISE) for his people, even in disobedience. He was very specific, asking that if the people repented, turned and prayed towards their homeland that God would hear and answer their prayers. God answered, saying that his eyes and heart would be there forever…. Daniel was seeking the heart of God. Daniel was honoring God’s words and trusting Him to fulfill them. Wow…
The men go on to spy on Daniel then report back to Darius that he was indeed breaking the law. Darius was extremely upset and probably angry at being manipulated. He spent the day trying to figure out a way to save Daniel. At nightfall, the statesmen returned and reminded Darius of his obligation. He called Daniel to him and had him thrown in the lions’ den. (Verses 11-16) Now this sounds strange to us, lions in Babylon. Lions spread from Greece to Asia Minor to India in King David’s reign so they were a big part of Biblical culture. The Assyrians and Babylonians loved keeping lions as pets. They would also breed and hunt them. They were a symbol (both good and bad) of strength, dignity, power, protection, destruction. Daniel was against the entire evil nature of man in the pit and they were hungry.
Verses 17-19 show us Darius’ heart. He sealed the stone behind Daniel along with his Lords, a man bound by his word. He anguished through the night. He had even called out to Daniel earlier telling him to trust that God would save him. even though Darius had made a mistake, he stood by his word and upheld the law of his kingdom.
Once daybreak came, Darius rushed out to the pit and called to Daniel. He begged for him to be alive. Daniel, neck deep in hungry lions calls out “O King, live forever!”. Even though it was Darius’ law that placed him in that pit he showed his respect and forgiveness. An Angel of the Lord had shut the mouths of the lions and Daniel was unharmed. Darius commanded that Daniel be brought up from the den and upon inspection they found him to be unharmed.
Now the next part gets a little weird. They then cast the accusers into the pit with their children and wives…. before they reached the bottom the lions had “overpowered them and broken all their bones to pieces”. Wow, why? Was it because Darius was angry? Were they being punished? The superstitious people of that time participated in something called “trial by ordeal”. It’s actually still used in some places. The premises is that the innocent parties virtue will save them, the guilty will fail. In India people were made to walk on coals, if your feet were burned you were guilty. During the Salem witch trials they threw you in deep water, if you sank you were innocent (they would pull you back out) , if you floated (or swam) you were guilty. See the trend here? The same was for Daniel, his God had shown him to be innocent of any offense and he had fulfilled the law, therefore the other party had to be given a chance to prove their innocence. God showed their guilt before they even hit the ground.
King Darius goes on to acknowledge Daniel’s God in great detail verses 26 and 27 say: “26…for he is the living God,
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
27 He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”
But, he calls Him, the God of Daniel… Darius doesn’t claim God as his own… Even though it says in verse 28 that Daniel PROSPERED.
My heart just aches with sadness sometimes. It seems the world is in my face and my choices aren’t good enough. Daniel was a boy of fifteen when he was taken away from his home and his people. They tried to rename him, make him eat unclean food, bow before idols and his fellowmen tried to sabotage him. A man who loved God so much died in a foreign land, he saw his home destroyed and his people carried away as slaves. Everything around him was trying to force him to conform. He refused. He was different and God blessed that.
A huge piece of all societies is acceptance, when we don’t feel accepted we feel wrong, out of place, embarrassed, ashamed, scared, anxious. All of these emotions, compelling us to step away from what makes us unique. Compelling us to put down our principles and walk in line with everyone else.
To be honest, it’s exhausting being a parent. Parenting can be difficult but not as hard as we make it. I spend more time beating myself up comparing my parenting styles to other people than I actually do parenting. Do I make mistakes? Yes. Do I fail? Yes. But, how much simpler would it be to parent your own children, pray for and protect your own children than trying to parent everyone else? Why is it so hard to see ourselves through the lens of love and compassion?
How much more content would I be if I focused on the here and now? How much richer would my experiences be if I weren’t trying to live up to an idea of what a wife and mother should be? Of what a woman should be? What a person should be?
Daniel heard God, he trusted God. He was thrown to the lions (wolves) literally and came out of it whole. I would’ve had a panic attack thinking about what would happen if I chose to pray.
Some moments I do well to remember to breathe. Sometimes the only thought in my head is “ok, now in and out. Slower next time. In, and out” on a loop until I don’t feel light headed anymore. Sometimes the lions are at my throat, challenging all that I claim to believe. Sometimes it’s like I can hear them say close the door! In an instant I’m trapped in the dark with these beasts.
They pace around me, they size me up and I am so terribly afraid. Sometimes they do pounce and devour me. All my knowledge of and trust in God gone in a horrible flash of teeth and claws. My convictions bleed out of me as I struggle to regain my breath. “ok, now in and out. Slower next time. In, and out”
God lets me lay there and wrestle with these beasts. I’m sure it’s only his grace that keeps me alive. He is silent for a while and then when I have come to the end of me, when I finally realize I’m losing. He softly says, when? When will you let me fight for you? What do you have to prove, love? Lay there and rest. Though you wrestle with your flesh, having it tore away won’t solve the problem. I own your flesh, I made it. It’s perfect the way it is. I made your heart, it’s perfect. I made your eyes, I made your hands, I made your feet, your voice, your hair, your husband, your children. I am the author and I am the finisher. YOU ARE NOT FINISHED. I am leading you, just follow.
I see a light as the angel closes the mouths of my enemies. I see the beasts retreat in fear. I get to my feet and to my surprise it does not hurt. I see the path, illuminated before me. Leading me up, out of the darkness. I feel my savior, restore my breath and flood my body.
There are people standing at the entrance, the world gazes as a woman whole steps from the den. I do not feel the weight of judgement, I do not feel the weight of anxiousness. My family looks upon me and I do not feel the weight of responsibility. I feel light and love. I feel peace, knowing it wasn’t me who saved me. I was destroying myself, the world was destroying me. It was Jesus. He saved me.
He did it because he loved me. He loved me more than he loved himself. He loved me more than he loved his judgement. He gave himself to be broken to save me. In one awful moment he took all the suffering of the world upon himself. That includes mentally as well. He made my flesh, he made my heart. He made them perfect. Just. The. Way. They. Are.
In his health,