We are studying the book of Daniel in our women’s bible study this fall.  Today, our video lesson from Beth Moore was based on the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being thrown into a fiery furnace because they wouldn’t bow down and worship the the golden image of King Nebuchadnezzar.  In our video lesson, Beth suggests there are three things that can happen to the children of God WHEN we are faced with fiery trials (note the WHEN, not IF.)  The three things are:

God can deliver us FROM the fire and our faith is BUILT.

God can deliver us THROUGH the fire and our faith is REFINED.

God can deliver us BY the fire right into His arms and our faith is PERFECTED.

She, of course, also called our attention to the ways scripture tells us over and over again that God will always be with us when we are walking through the fire.  She concluded the lesson by drawing our attention to the part of the story in Daniel 3:27 where we find out that our three brave protagonists not only made it through the fire unscathed; they didn’t even smell like smoke!  She likened “smelling like smoke” to the way some people may survive a fiery encounter but continue to reek of the smell of bitterness, anger, resentment, or self-pity long after the fire is out.  She suggested that God’s healing power can complete our deliverance to the extent that we don’t even smell like smoke anymore.

The Amish people in Pennsylvania don’t smell like smoke and it has only been a couple of days.  In many ways, as a community, they are still in the fire.  Some are being delivered through the fire, some of those baby girls were delivered by the fire directly into the waiting arms of their Heavenly Father.  I can’t even imagine the pain being experienced by the family that lost the two little girls that were sisters.  How senseless, how tragic, how horrific!  I picture my two little girls in that one room schoolhouse, feet bound together, a gun to their heads…I can’t even go there in my mind.

Yet, the Amish people are speaking of things like forgiveness…already!  They are making food for the family of the shooter and expressing concerns about his children.  While they are quick to acknowledge the enormous pain and grief they are experiencing, they also want to make sure that no message of revenge is spoken.  They are not willing, as one man said, to be “trapped by bitterness.”   Another woman I saw interviewed said this about the reaction of the Amish people to this tragedy; “Two things can happen with your faith.  You let it go and grow bitter.  Or you can let it make your faith stronger.  Our faith will grow stronger.”   When the interviewer asked how she knew that their faith would grow stronger, she replied, “When you have Christ in you, that’s what happens.”

But come on, those Amish folks don’t really live in the REAL world, do they?  They are, by choice, a little disconnected from reality, right?  That sort of attitude doesn’t really make sense outside of their sheltered, naive existence.  In the real world, we have a right to our anger.  In the real world, someone needs to pay…justice must be served.  In the real world, noone in their right mind would expect the parents of a murdered child to forgive the killer.  I know, in my world, I would struggle to find any forgiveness in my heart if someone had tied up my baby girls and then shot them in the back of the head.  It doesn’t even make sense.

I guess that’s the point.  It doesn’t make sense…forgiveness, grace, turning the other cheek….crazy ideas, really.  They just don’t mesh with our concepts of fairness and justice.  But then again, grace really isn’t about fairness… it’s about love.  About a love so big, so all-encompassing, so unexplainable that it must be from outside this world.  This “out of this world” love seems kind of crazy to people who haven’t experienced it.  They killed Jesus for talking about this kind of love.  Yet, He came back and sent us out into the world to tell others about this crazy, hard-to-understand, healing, transforming kind of love.  And, more importantly, He doesn’t want us to just tell others about this love, He wants us to LOVE that way.  Even when it’s hard.

It looks like the Amish people know how to love this way.  In spite of all the evidence to the contrary in our crazy world, they still believe God is in control and walking through their refining fire with them.  I’m sure that all of you, like me, are praying for their comfort and peace this week as they bury those baby girls.  Let’s also follow their example and pray for the family of the shooter as they too try to make sense of their shattered lives.