But, If Not
What does it look like to trust that God is good all the time — even when He doesn’t provide, heal, or answer our prayers in the ways we think He should?
In the Bible, we meet Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were in jeopardy of being put in a furnace after refusing to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar. The story overall is heroic and popular for many reasons but there is an often overlooked detail that really inspires me. Most people focus on the belief and faith they had that God would deliver them from the fiery furnace, but while that faith is one to emulate, they were not just going to be faithful through only His deliverance. In Daniel 3:18, they say to the king, “But if not, we will still not serve your gods.”
But if not.
That’s a bold statement. They believed that God was good and he was Lord, regardless of their circumstance. Even if He did not deliver them from that furnace, they still would serve Him.
Here’s why this resonates with me.
When I was a one-year-old, I had an unusual number of ear infections. Most of them were routine infections; except one night was different. My parents took me to the doctor for another supposed ear infection, but they knew something more was wrong.
After my mom felt led to get me checked out further, we ended up at the hospital. After several blood tests, my parents heard the word that no one should ever have to hear, especially about their baby — leukemia.
At that time, 95% of my blood cells were cancerous, and they didn’t think I would make it through the night. However, four years later, I was completely cancer-free. And 18 years later, I am a retired college athlete and I’m now healthier than ever.
It’s easy to spiral into anxiety and depression when we walk through incredibly hard circumstances; for me that was cancer. No one blames us for that. As humans, we all want to control everything, including our health. The first step to developing the faith that allows us to see God’s goodness in the midst of the furnace is having open hands — hands that are willing to let go and let God be good.
Trust is one of the most crucial steps in cultivating a sense of peace despite difficulties.
I am confident that my faith today was shaped by my parents’ faith during my journey with leukemia. They trusted God through an incredibly tough time, and because of that, I am forever grateful. I now have a deep-rooted faith and understanding that God is worthy of all of our praise and trust because of the faith that they had. He is worthy even before or after He decides to do anything.
Developing an open-hands mentality looks like surrendering every day. When we’re walking through difficult situations, it’s easy to get caught up in the ‘what ifs’ — focusing on what could happen in the future. What if I’m not healed? What if it gets worse? What if things are always this scary?
Instead, we must know that showing God we truly trust Him looks like living faithfully each day. Don’t focus on the long-term. God isn’t worried about the future, He cares about your today. Wake up and choose to live faithfully today, then do the same tomorrow. Over time, it’s amazing to see the peace and trust that is restored when we focus on taking one step at a time — one day at a time.
Not only must we trust in the Lord, but we must also recognize our finitude. We only have one perspective about what an answer to prayer looks like. An answer to prayer does not always look like the answer we want, and part of the Christian faith is resting in that. Because what if God has something else planned for His glory? The ultimate goal is God’s glory, not Him answering our prayers in the ways we want. Believing that God is good, regardless of any earthly trial, means submission, reliance, and trust.
When God is looking at our lives, He is looking at not only our immediate circumstances but also eternity. He makes decisions that are in our best interest not only in the here and now but for eternal life. Sometimes, we are only able to look toward what we believe to be our best interest in the immediate sense. This doesn’t make us bad, it just means that God is better. God has our eternity in mind when He has you in mind.
All of this cannot be done without spending time with the Lord.
Just like our earthly relationships, we’re not going to trust someone we don’t spend a significant amount of time with, and the same goes for God. The more time we spend with Him, the more we will want to trust Him. His goodness becomes so much more evident when we are in constant communion with Him. Sometimes it takes time to learn that goodness.
This does not mean that cancer isn’t hard. Actually the opposite is true, it’s incredibly hard. Trust does not change the situation; it changes our perspective.
Anxiety, at its core, stems from our expectation that we want our prayers to be answered in the way we desire, not in the way He knows is best. Whenever I think about this, a picture comes to mind that was circulating around my social media for a while. It depicts a little girl holding a small stuffed teddy bear facing God, while God is reaching out his hand asking her to give it to Him. The girl does not want to give it up, but what she can’t see is that God has a stuffed bear behind His back that is significantly bigger that He is ready to give to her.
We only see half of the story. A popular Christian song, “The Fathers House” by Cory Asbury states that “the story isn’t over if the story isn’t good.” We don’t always have the best definition of a good story here on Earth.
We were not made to be in control nor to have it all together. We were made to bring His Kingdom to earth each day. Find freedom in knowing that God will make everything beautiful in His time.
But if not…
He is still good.
MEET CAMERON CORTMAN: Cameron Cortman is a graduate of Covenant College, where he majored in Marketing and played collegiate tennis. Cam is currently working at See.Spark.Go as a content marketing specialist for brands, including Lighthouse, while pursuing his MBA through LSU. A survivor of leukemia and former Lighthouse Family Partner, Cam has a deep passion and heart to serve those who are navigating childhood cancer.