This is a phrase that I commonly use in my life. Always privately, always to myself, in meditation or prayer. The phrase comes from the story in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament of the three Hebrews known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. For those of you who do not know bible history, just know this. There were three major deportations of the Jewish people starting in 609 BCE. The Jewish people were really just a small stopping point on the way to Egypt and consequently was at time swept up in the larger conflicts between Egypt and other emerging kingdoms. Just prior to the first deportation, the Jewish king, Josiah was conscripted to help in the conflict between Babylon and Egypt. You see the Babylonians had taken over the Assyrian empire and now were attempting to expand to Egypt. Josiah dies in this conflict and Jehoiakim becomes the Jewish king. He begins to pay tribute to the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar II. The Jewish Kingdom is not happy with this, but to ensure their cooperation many Jewish people are taken away into captivity to Babylon (Modern day Iraq). This is what is known as the first deportation and the story goes that it included the prophet Daniel, and various other people including the three that are the subject of this blog.
I will make this long story short, if you are interested dust off a copy of that Bible and read Daniel Chapter 3. King Nebuchadnezzar generally allowed people of different cultures and customs to do their own thing, it was part of a long standing Persian tradition. However, at some point the King has a statue erected and every so often, trumpets would sound and people would be required to stop what they are doing and bow toward the statue. This did not sit well with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who did not believe in worshiping false idols and other commandments from their religious faith. They refused, they got brought before the King. The King liked these guys, but could not let them disobey. He gave them another chance, they still refused. The King left with no choice told them they were to be thrown into a fiery furnace and burned alive. The three had to make a choice. Die for their beliefs or comply with the King’s request.
The but if not concept is their attitude. Effectively they told the King, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” You see they had the attitude that it was all going to work out, but if not, they would continue on anyway. They made the decision on how they were going to respond before it happened. Call this faith, call this dedication, all this a belief in the guiding hand of God or Fate, or both.
I have made this a practical part of my life. Whenever I am about ready to take on something really difficult, or I am about to engage in a conflict or I have to do something that could make or break my success then I always remember this phrase but if not. I am going to get what I want, but if not, I am going to keep trying anyway. This is the correct attitude, in my opinion, for dealing with difficult times, trying times. I plead for God or the Universe, or Fate to help me. I decide what that it is, then I finish the thought with but if not. What follows the but if not is a very important ingredient for how you deal with life’s challenges, problems and obstacles.