Promise: “I will pursue you with goodness and mercy.”
… who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions… — Hebrews 11:33
Several years ago, along with our church’s media team, I was coproducing and hosting What’s Your Story?, a cable TV program. This show about inspiring stories in the lives of everyday people always started the same way.
Bruce and Jaimie were college sweethearts. They met at The Master’s College in Southern California, where Bruce, a high school basketball star, was attending on a full-ride basketball scholarship. They discovered they both enjoyed the game of basketball and the Los Angeles Lakers in particular. Building on that connection, they fell in love and soon were married.
Bruce and Jaimie were enjoying the beauty of young love and getting used to the ups and downs the first year of marriage can bring. They planned to wait a few years before starting a family so they could settle into their careers. But less than a year into their newlywed bliss, Jaimie became pregnant. Although the news was unexpected, Jaimie and Bruce were thrilled about it. They let their families know and began celebrating the miracle of the growing child in Jaimie’s tummy.
“Mrs. Watson, I’m sorry to tell you this, but… you’ve had a miscarriage.”
Those words hit like a ton of bricks.
What? How can that be? Jaimie thought.
“You can tell that from the ultrasound?” she asked. “Well, to be frank, we simply can’t find anything on the ultrasound,” he said. “I went back to my office to check your urine sample to make sure we had the right diagnosis, and you did have numbers indicating you were in fact pregnant. At this point we are going to need to do a dilation and curettage, commonly called a D & C.”
Jaimie had no idea what a D & C was, but it certainly did not sound good.
“But I don’t have any signs of a miscarriage — no bleeding, no cramping, I feel fine.”
“I understand, but we are going to need you to come in on Friday to perform the procedure on you.” The doctor explained that a D & C involved scraping the uterine walls to make sure no tissue was left behind to become infected.
“Uhhh, okay,” Jaimie said, overwhelmed.
She called Bruce and told him what was happening. They made plans for her D & C.
Two days later, on Friday, Bruce took Jaimie to her appointment. As she was changing from her clothes into a hospital gown, she began to have a feeling that something was wrong.
“God, please help me through this,” she prayed. “Please guide the hand of the doctor.”
“Everything went very well,” Dr. Hansen said. “Jaimie should not have any cramping because I took extra time to clean everything out.”
“Okay, thank you, Doctor,” Bruce said.
Within a few hours Bruce took Jaimie home, and just as the doctor had advised, she took it easy for a few days. Bruce and Jaimie spent that time together mourning the loss of the unborn child. But a week after the procedure, Jaimie confided in her mom. “You know, Mom, it’s really strange, but I feel more pregnant than ever.”
“Jaimie, honey, you’ve been pregnant for a couple of months, and it takes time for your hormones to get back to normal.”
“That’s probably it,” Jaimie said.
About a week after her D & C, Jaimie was startled awake at six in the morning by a phone call.
She groggily picked up the phone. “Hello?”
“Hello, Ms. Watson?” an efficient sounding voice on the other end of the line asked.
“This is Dr. Hansen. How are you feeling?”
“I feel okay.”
“Are you in any pain?”
“No, I’m not in any pain,” Jaimie answered cautiously.
“Why? Is there something wrong?”
“Are you sure you’re not in pain?”
“Yes, I’m absolutely sure,” she insisted.
“Mrs. Watson, remember how I told you that we routinely send the D & C tissue samples to the lab to be sure we got all the fetal material?”
“I just got word from the lab that no fetal tissue was found.” “What does that mean?” Jaimie asked.
“It means that you must have an ectopic pregnancy and the baby is implanted outside the uterus, probably in the fallopian tubes, and that’s quite dangerous. I need you to get to the hospital right away for emergency surgery. And have someone drive you.”
“Okay,” she said, “I’ll leave just as soon as I can.”
“Mrs. Watson, I’m serious. You need to get to the hospital — now. I called you this early because I wanted to be sure you do not have anything to eat or drink. I have called ahead, and the doctors are waiting for you.”
Jaimie hung up the phone.
God, why are You doing this? she thought as she turned to tell Bruce the news.
Fifteen minutes later, Jaimie was being rushed to the hospital. When she arrived she was whisked into an emergency room with curtains for walls.
The ER doctor walked in and introduced himself. “We have been called by your doctor. I understand you have an ectopic pregnancy. Let’s see what’s going on.”
He hooked Jaimie up to the now familiar ultrasound machine. After a few minutes with the wand, he said, “Excuse me, I’ll be back shortly.”
A few minutes later he reappeared with another doctor, who looked intently at the screen for what seemed like several minutes.
The two doctors began talking excitedly and finally said that they wanted to get Dr. Hansen on the phone.
“Okay,” Jaimie said.
Finally, the ER doctor reentered Jaimie’s room and sat down next to the hospital bed. “Mrs. Watson, I don’t know how to tell you this.”
Oh no. Do I have cancer? she thought. “Tell me what?” “It’s… well… it’s your baby.”
“What baby? I don’t have a baby — at least not since the D & C,” Jaimie told him.
“That’s what I have been told, but… well, I don’t quite understand this, especially given that you supposedly had a D & C. But Mrs. Watson, your baby is right there in the womb, right where it should be.”
“What… what are you saying?”
“I am saying you are still pregnant with what looks like a normal pregnancy, with your baby right where it belongs.”
“How can that be?” Jaimie said. “I thought the D & C would have sucked out everything.”
“It should have. There is no medical explanation for this, and I certainly don’t understand it,” the doctor said with tears in his eyes. “All I can say is — it’s a miracle! It’s the hands of God.”
Seven months later a beautiful, healthy little girl, Sabrina Watson, was born.
“Stop the cameras!” I said. Tears were streaming from my eyes, smearing my on-camera makeup all over my face, but I didn’t care. When we had set out earlier that morning to do another episode of What’s Your Story? I had not imagined I would hear such an amazing testimony of God’s faithfulness.
As I have reflected on this miracle, a picture of God’s hands reaching into the womb and surrounding tiny, precious Sabrina comes to mind. The Creator’s grip cupped around His precious child, protecting her from the suction of that vacuum hose. Hands protecting His little girl.
For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. — Psalm 139:13
It would not be the first time that protective hands kept safe a beloved child. In Hebrews 11:32-33, the Bible describes the heroic faith of Daniel and how protective hands shut the mouths of hungry lions.
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about… the prophets, who through faith… shut the mouths of lions.”
The story of Daniel in the lions’ den is one of the most iconic stories in the Bible. Most people think they know it well, and so did I. But after studying this story anew, I was shocked about the misconceptions I had held since childhood.
First, Daniel was not a young man at the time he was thrown into the lions’ den. I’m quite sure the felt figures that my Sunday school teacher put up on the felt background showed Daniel as a young, handsome figure in a white and brown robe and King Darius as an ancient man with a white beard. He always seemed to me like a fatherly figure to Daniel.
I was shocked to learn that Daniel was actually about eighty years old when he was thrown to the lions and that King Darius was not a fatherly figure at all. Daniel was more like an elder statesman whom Darius relied upon. Darius was sixty-two when he took over ruling Babylon for the Medo-Persian Empire. It’s more probable that Darius loved Daniel as a dad, rather than the other way around.
Not everyone loved Daniel, though. There was a group of men in Babylon who hated him because he constantly demonstrated his unwavering faith in God.
Daniel would go to his room, open his window, and pray to God three times every day. This was something he did like clockwork and everybody knew it. So Daniel’s enemies decided to use that practice to lay a trap.
They convinced King Darius to sign a decree preventing prayer to anyone but himself. Despite the penalty of certain death, Daniel continued to open his window and get down on his knees and pray to his heavenly Father.
The men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”
This was devastating for King Darius, who tried to undo the law but could not.
…So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den… Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.
At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”
Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”
The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. — Daniel 6:15-16, Daniel 6:18-23
In the past, whenever I heard this story, I always tried to explain away God’s part in shutting the mouths of the lions. I would say things like, “Daniel was sure lucky those lions had just had a big meal, or he would have been dinner.” But then, when I reread the account, I was shocked at the description that these lions were famished:
At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. — Daniel 6:24
The story of Daniel is an amazing story of God’s faithfulness. Daniel had risked everything to meet God in prayer, and God did not leave him hanging. He was there, ready to rescue Daniel in the craziest, most ridiculous way. Of course, God could have nixed the whole lions’ den scenario way back when the men were plotting against Daniel. Any one of a hundred scenarios could have saved Daniel a whole lot of stress. But clearly there was something about Daniel’s having to go through the journey. Something God wanted Daniel to learn about His faithfulness.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the horrific stress of lions’ den moments that we forget God is always bigger than our circumstances. We forget God has allowed those particular circumstances — no matter how horrible and impossible they seem — to teach us something.
Let’s face it, there are not too many circumstances we will face that are more horrible and impossible than the prospect of being torn limb from limb by a pack of hungry lions. I would have bet against Daniel ever coming out of that den of ferocious, starving predators. Yet the Lord’s hands sealed their hungry mouths shut and nothing harmed him.
I would have bet against little Sabrina Watson ever surviving the procedure. Yet the faithful hands of God sealed the end of that vacuum.
Sometimes it’s just the faithful hands of God that rescue us for no other reason than that He can and He is faithful.
That is the kind of God we are called to serve, a ridiculously faithful God in whom we can have ridiculous faith.
God, thank You for rescuing me from situations I am not even aware of. Thank You for being faithful to me when I am faithless and clueless. Help me to trust Your goodness and mercy even in circumstances I do not understand. Give me the strength and faith to live a life worthy of my undeserved rescue. Amen.
Excerpted with permission from Ridiculous Faith: Experience The Power Of An Absurdly, Unbelievably Good God by Shelene Bryan, copyright Shelene Bryan.
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