Sunshine and Rain

Imagine with me for a moment a universe in which this story occurs. Three Hebrew young men are standing in a plain with a large statue before them. They are told in no uncertain terms that if they do not worship this image they will be killed. They refuse to do so and, when questioned, they make their stand clear. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” The king in his anger has the furnace heated to seven times hotter than usual. The boys are thrown in – and they die.

As Christians we live in this terrible and yet oddly comforting tension. We have this strong faith that says that an ever-loving God loves us, cares for us, and can miraculously intercede on our behalf. What makes this terrible is that God does not always move on our behalf. We tell the story of the three Hebrew boys because of their faith and God’s willingness to honor that faith with a miraculous intervention. But what do we do when the miraculous intervention doesn’t happen?

I have a friend who has stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. One of the things we talk about on occasion is how to live with the tension of unrealized faith. She believes she will be healed. But she also knows that she may not be. She lives in a perpetual state of “But even if He does not…” The problem for her (it’s not her problem, but it is a problem) is that so many of us who love her refuse to recognize the possibility that God may not miraculously intervene on her behalf. The only outcome our faith will allow us to consider is seeing Someone in the form of the Son of God walking with her in her fiery furnace. It’s almost a shame to say this, but I think she worries about us almost as much as we worry about her. I think it’s because she doesn’t want to see anyone’s faith shaken because God doesn’t move in the way we pray He would.

Unfortunately (and I said this to her the last time we spoke) there is no simple answer to this concern. We are in essence wrestling with the age old question of theodicy – why do bad things happen to good people? For a long time (and still) people believed in the idea of symbolic retribution. The belief that your good or bad deeds determined what happened to you in life. And while that may be true on a transactional level (the Bible certainly says that you reap what you sow), I think Job and Jesus present the idea that symbolic retribution may not be consistent on a cosmic level.

So what answers do we have? I think we have two. The first is in the words of Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matt 5 Jesus says, “…for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” What hope do we have in that? The knowledge that your pain is not necessarily about you. For the good or the ill, “time and chance happen to [us] all.” We will all experience joy and pain in this life. It is a function of living. My friend’s rain is hers, mine belongs to me, and yours belongs to you. Even in the midst of that, even in this time where it seems like the rain won’t let up, we’ve seen the sun shine in her life. The cycle still comes and goes, even as she adjusts to this new reality. The way she has been able to see blessings in the midst of her challenges is an inspiration to us all.

The second can be found in the words of Paul. Philippians 4:13 is one of the most famous verses in scripture. We quote it ad nauseum and usually out of context. As I have grown I’ve come to love the verses right before it. “11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” How does Paul know that he can do all things through Christ? He knows because of his experience. God was there - in the sunshine and the rain, in times of need and times of abundance, strengthening Paul through his failures and his successes. So I ask – What is more important? To know how God is going to resolve the tension? Or to know that either way, God will be there?

Jason Hines is a former attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at AdventHealth University. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at

Previous Spectrum columns by Jason Hines can be found at:

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Pleasant reading. Thank you.

In considering the story of the three and the furnace, this time I wondered if there is any historic record of that significant event. Some hostorian must have recorded it.


Azariah [Daniel 1:6] left us a PRAYER.
Called “The Prayer of Azariah and the Song Of The Three Jews”.
Seventh day Adventists do not read it, nor do we acknowledge it.
It is in the group of Scripture titled “Apocrypha”.
So we are not blessed by it.
Beginning with verse 66.
“Bless the Lord, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael. Sing praise to
Him and highly exalt Him forever. For He has rescued us from Hades
and saved us from the power of death, and delivered us from the
midst of the burning fiery furnace, from the midst of the fire He has
delivered us.
67. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures
68. All who worship the Lord, bless the God of gods. Sing praise to
Him and give thanks to Him,
for His mercy endures forever.”

All 68 verses extol the God of gods. Worth reading out loud for a
morning or evening worship Liturgy.
Remember these young guys were torn from their families in Jerusalem.
Had to march day after day after day in sandals in the hot sun, on the
sandy, dusty road to Babylon.
There they were inspected naked for any physical blemishes. Given
educational tests. Passed. Accepted. And acceptance probably meant
a minor operation without anesthesia called making them Eunuchs.
Which meant they could NOT fulfill their Jewish obligations of having
a family which would carry on their family name listed in the Jewish
REMEMBER that being a Eunuch would make them “unclean”. Separate
them from the worshiping crowd in Jerusalem, if they were there.

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where god is is where we want to be…this is certainly the lesson job had learned…do we really want to be where god is if we only want to be where things are pleasant, and we get what we want…perhaps the stage 4 cancer is a test to see what is really in everyone’s heart…not that god doesn’t already know, but so that everyone involved can know…

i’m convinced that god does work in every case for our good, whether we see it or not…he’s working for our eternal salvation, our eternal future, and not necessarily for the few decades we enjoy in this world…sometimes what’s good for our eternal future and what’s good for our lives in this world align…but sometimes they do not…when this happens, god picks what’s good for our eternal future because he knows, when we’re in heaven, and looking back on our lives, we’d pick what he picked when we see as he sees…

God is Panentheistic. God has the ability to be everywhere. We do
NOT have the mental capacity to understand this, any more than
we HAVE the Mental Capacity to understand the SIZE of the
So, no matter where we are, as the Psalmist wrote on parchment,
in heaven, lying at the bottom of the ocean depths [and we know
they are much deeper than the Sea those at that time were aware]
God is Immanuel – God is with us.
So then, Why should I be afraid? which is a question someone
else asks.
God DOES NOT give us an Umbrella.
God DOES GIVE us a “wing” to find shelter under. A “wing” attached
to Him.


Thank God, we live in a time after the Stone was rolled away on that pivotal Sunday morning. Let it be that our fears and apprehensions rolled away with it.


Sitting in the hospital waiting to learn the stage of my cancer - I recalled first “Ask, and Ye Shall Receive”. And then I thought of all the patients in all the rooms, waiting just like me. Why should I expect a different outcome than anyone else? Nobody deserves cancer. It happens - and not for the purpose of convincing others of the content of ones character!

And my prayer changed, “Help me breathe, help me sleep, help me ask good questions with composure”. And it was answered.

Now, I am waiting for a transplant. Knowing there are 93,000 people like me prevents me from pondering whether I have the faith of a mustard seed. I pray that I will have a steady spirit to respond to uncertainty, the curiosity to observe all opportunities, and the wisdom to alter my life constructively if it must change. That will be answered.

We do great harm when we ask people, in the name of faith, to deny their own observations of the world. Realistic recognition of the world around us demonstrates tragedy occurs without
meaning or purpose - it’s how we handle it, how we support others that gives it value.

Bad things do happen - Kushner’s 1980 book “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People” is a marvelous encouragement to those - everybody eventually - who find themselves facing
character building adventures.


It’s interesting that AR is promoting a discussion on the environment issue. And allowing both sides to post their comments freely as well. Here:

Now, Courage, what you are going through is very sad. Dealing with such sensitive and disturbing health issues is extremely difficult. Unfortunately, bad things happen to good people, which is what I believe is your case. There are not enough and appropriate words to say to one who is going through it right now, like you are. I can only ask God to provide enough comfort for you during a time that is so hard, when the reality of a serious health issue hits one. Just keep your faith in eternal life, that’s the only thing that actually matters now.


This is such an important recognition…so many people, particularly in the SDA church, believe that there is a one-to-one correlation between God’s direct intervention and everything that happens to us. Their first thought, when tragedy strikes, is, ‘why did God do this to me?’…such a sad way to live. God is, in fact, with us in every circumstance.


It’s a pretty screwed up position.

This is why it’s a pretty screwed up position.

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Yes, healthy SDAs die of Cancer.
My 8th and 10th grade teacher [who also performed our wedding] recently
died of metastatic prostate cancer.
Another close friend who I knew as a teacher and then as sister staff member
for 47 years first had breast cancer [thought she was OK for several years
after surgery and treatment] and then developed Pancreatic cancer which
did not respond.
It is not easy to respond well to chronic illnesses and to terminal illnesses.
The only response I know is to “keep moving”, find helping activities one has
the ability to engage in, maintain scheduled social contacts with others [be creative].

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