Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

“Daniel resolved…”

Daniel 1:8, NIV

Have you ever felt that way? Like you’re stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place? Like no matter what you choose the consequences won’t be pleasant?

That was Daniel. Put yourself in his place: He was stuck too. Stuck between a king and the King.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like that would be a hard choice: choose the King, of course. Choose the King of Kings. But “a king” was King Nebuchadnezzar, and Daniel was one of his prisoners. So it appeared that he had immediate control over Daniel’s life and could tell Daniel what to do and what not to do. I’m pretty sure Nebuchadnezzar thought he could do whatever he wanted. He thought he was pretty hot stuff. Just hear him gloat: “Is this not the great Babylon I have built . . . by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30, NIV)

How would such a king respond to a prisoner rejecting him and his desires? Probably not kindly. In fact, we later see this same king sending Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace for refusing to do his bidding. So Daniel had good reason to fear alienating someone like this. Daniel was definitely in a hard place.

On Daniel’s other side? A Rock. The Rock of Ages. Jehovah God. The King of Kings and His desires. We don’t know the specific reason why Daniel felt it wasn’t right to eat King Nebuchadnezzar’s food. Perhaps the animals were ceremonially unclean. Perhaps some had been offered to idols. Whatever the reason, we do know that Daniel believed that by eating the king’s food he would be defiling himself (1:8), and he would be going against the desires of the King of Kings.

It seemed that no matter what Daniel chose—to eat or to not eat—someone was going to be angry with him. So what should he do? Refuse the king’s food and, in disobeying, potentially experience immediate and fatal results? Or eat, thus making the earthly king happy and potentially making the King of Kings angry?

Daniel might have tried to rationalize the choice of eating. He might have thought to himself, Well, I don’t really know that the food came from unclean animals. He might have reasoned, God can’t possibly expect me to reject the food and go hungry and die of starvation or be sentenced to death. Surely God wants me to live so I can be a positive influence on those around me in this heathen land.

Ever been in a situation like that? Where you felt God was expecting you to do something, but you knew you weren’t going to like the consequences? Maybe you saw your boss taking something from the office, and he asked you not to report him. Maybe a friend wanted you to go with her to someplace inappropriate for a believer. Maybe your spouse asked you to tell a lie on your tax form. Maybe you were in a choral group and you felt some of the songs on the program were dishonoring to God.

What did you do? What should we do when we find ourselves stuck between two hard choices?

It’s easy to convince ourselves that there is no choice at these times. We don’t want to alienate people. We don’t want to hurt their feelings. We don’t want to lose our job. Maybe we even try to justify our decision to please others instead of God by convincing ourselves that offending these people would be a poor witness.

But do any of these “justifications” absolve us of our primary responsibility to obey God? Should we not, like Daniel, resolve to choose God’s way? Can we trust God to care for us when we choose to follow Him?

Perhaps Daniel’s experience in the matter can be an example for us. Daniel resolved to obey God. And guess what. He didn’t end up starving to death. King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t sentence him to death. Instead, we see God caring for him every step of the way.

  • God “caused the official [overseeing the prisoners] to show favor and compassion to Daniel” (1:9).
  • Daniel used God-given wisdom (1:17) to suggest to the official a trial period during which the four would eat only vegetables and drink only water (1:12-13).
  • The official agreed to the test period (1:14).
  • Then, “At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food” (1:15).
  • So the guard continued to bring them the food they desired, food that would not be defiling (1:16).

Does that give you hope that when you’re stuck between the Rock and a hard place, you can safely choose the Rock?

When I’m stuck with a hard choice or when I’m encountering a difficult time in my life, I have to remind myself that I can trust God. I can safely choose the Rock and leave the consequences to Him. To remind myself of this, I’ve taken to using three simple statements:

  • God knows what’s best for me.
  • God want’s what’s best for me.
  • God is able to bring about what’s best for me.

I pray that you too will find that God is trustworthy—at all times and in all situations. And I pray that, no matter what you think the potential consequences may be, you will resolve to choose the Rock.

  • Read through the first chapter of Daniel to see how God cares for Daniel and his friends. And if you want to read of another instance where God protected those who resolved to follow Him, go on to read Daniel chapter 3.
  • Do you have any difficult decisions to make in your life right now? How can you use the experience of Daniel to help you make the right choice?
  • Is there a verse you’ve memorized to remind yourself that God is trustworthy? Will you share it with us?

One comment

  1. A friend shared this in her FB feed today and it fits right in with this message: “Fear is ‘What if.’ Faith is ‘Even if.'” (James Bowman)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *