A thick cloud of smoke was billowing from the room where my youngest son lay, and I was powerless to help him. Thick, black smoke. The acrid aroma burnt my lungs as I stood inches away, unable to save him. I could see him, curled up on a couch by the window and deep within my soul a cry rose up and bellowed from my lips.
Turning, I could see another door. I couldn’t see inside, but I knew that he was there. My oldest son, alone with lions. Lions whose roar was so powerful it felt as if the very ground beneath me would split at the sound. I cried out for help, but no sound came from my lips as hot tears spilled down my cheeks.
And then I awoke from my dream.
My heart racing, I sat up and looked around the room to get my bearings. Our quiet house, my children safe in their beds. And I relaxed, but only for a moment. Something about the dream had shaken me to my very core. It had seemed so real. Perhaps because in a way, it was.
My youngest son attends a school whose mascot is a fire breathing dragon. My oldest son a school with a roaring lion. And they are not okay.
School isn’t just school anymore. Long gone are the days of learning arithmetic and literacy, geography and history. Sure, those subjects are still taught – but every class and every lesson is rooted in a social agenda whose main purpose is to normalize immorality. To push new social ethics and to tear down those who don’t line up with their truths. And my children daily walk through the doors of these schools and into a new kind of battle ground. Whose superior weaponry seeks to mock, kill and destroy.
Oftentimes I feel powerless, like I did in my dream. Prayers for their protection seem to fall flat, and I grasp for fresh faith. If I’m being honest, oftentimes I feel blinded by the crushing weight of it all. But sometimes hope can linger just under the surface.
This Advent season we have chosen to memorize as a family Psalm 121:1-2. “I look to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” It’s a good reminder of Who to turn to in times of trouble. But just under the surface is the real hope…
I lift my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121
The Lord does not slumber or sleep, but watches over me and keeps me from harm. Will He not do the same for my children?
When I think of thick smoke and hot fire, I remember a time when three men walked into a fiery furnace and did not get burned. Three men who refused to bend to rules that went against their beliefs, who took a stand and clearly told the king they would never do as required. In a rage, the king threw them into a furnace burning seven times hotter than usual, so hot it killed the men charged with throwing them in. And in the midst of the fire, they were not alone – the king looked into the furnace and saw their God was with them (Daniel 3).
When I think of roaring lions, I remember a time when a man spent the night in their den and was not harmed. Powerful men who didn’t like this man set a trap for him by convincing the king to make a law stating no one could pray to anyone but him – and anyone who did not obey would be thrown into a lion’s den. After the king made the law, the man was caught and even the king couldn’t save him from the lions, though he wished he could. But the next morning, when the king returned to the den, the man emerged without a scratch on him because his God had shut the mouths of the lions (Daniel 6).
Both of these stories emerge from a time when these men were living in a land that was not their land. Where the people they lived with and worked beside did not like them. They resented their beliefs and aimed to destroy them. And yet, these men were not moved. They faced the consequences of their actions and they arose victorious, as they all were promoted to high places by the kings who punished them and recognized their God was above all others. The very same God who reigns today.
I drifted back to sleep and was in the same hallway, with those same two doors. No longer frozen in fear, I opened the first door. The smoke was thick and choked my breath. Gasping for air and groping around in the darkness, I reached the couch. My son stirred and lifted his head with a smile, and together we walked out of the room. He was completely unharmed, though he’d been in the fire for some time.
I moved toward the second door, but before I could reach it, my son emerged. Looking like he’d been through a battle, ripped clothing and dirty skin. But his face glowed with victory and no wounds were visible. All three of us walked out of that hallway and into a meadow where we were surrounded by thousands of others whose hands were lifted and whose voices were crying out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty!”
And then I awoke from my dream.
This time, my heart was light and my hope stirred. If God could save Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fire and Daniel from the lion’s den then He can surely do it again for my children. And He can do it for yours, too.
I’d say nothing much has changed since the book of Daniel was written. People in powerful positions still seek to put an end to those who devote their lives to God. But the fact is, everything has changed since Daniel. Jesus was born so he could die to save a desperate world and give hope and life to the hurting, broken people who lived before us, who live among us, and those who will live long after we are gone.
We still walk through the fire and among the lions. But the same God who was with those men is here with us today, walking beside us. King Nebuchadnezzar saw it with his own eyes, and I believe that Satan can see it too. God took what was meant for evil and turned it for His good and His glory- the two kings acknowledged God was over all other gods, and all four men were promoted and were prosperous in their time.
Even though the smoke is thick and the fire rages, even though the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, even though the battle is long and hard – the victory is already His. Satan is already vanquished, and Jesus has always been and always will be King.