"Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding, learning and competent to stand in the king's palace, and to teach them the literature and the language of the Chaldeans. . . . Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego." - Daniel 1:3-4, 6-7
A number of years ago, back when we were a mere family of three, I studied the book of Daniel with a precious group of women through a study written by Beth Moore. While I'm sure I had learned previously that Daniel, of the lion's den, was a close friend of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, of fiery furnace fame, I believe this to be the first time it had ever occurred to me that, for some reason, while Daniel retains the usage of his Hebrew name throughout the book, his three friends must endure their fifteen minutes with the pagan, Babylonian names bestowed on them at the time of their capture. Almost no one refers to their true identities - the names given by their parents, the ones that pointed to their God in Heaven.
Shadrach had been Hananiah, meaning "God is gracious," in his previous life. Meshach was Mishael, "Who is like God?" (another form of the name we gave our first-born, Micaiah) and Abednego had been Azariah, "God is our help."
When I learned these names, I loved them all and thought about how beautiful they would be for children of this day, even. Hananiah was my favorite and it remained a strong name contender (only as a girl name, in my mind) from that time forward.
Fast forward a few years and we are finally having a second girl and now we have to name her. And our indecisive nature when it came to picking baby names shone bright and clear. The names I had once held dear I rejected. I actually pulled away from the name Hananiah for quite awhile. Though I loved the story, of standing firm through the fire, of Shadrach and his companions, I felt the name was too soft for our little girl - the one I felt, even in the womb, would be giving us a run for our money with her boldness.
And then the fires came - we watched loved ones lose their loved ones, we fought for a home to call our own, we waited, endured, for her arrival - but God was faithful through it all. And I knew, if I wanted nothing else for our precious girl, I wanted her to know who her God was and to be willing to cling to him when the world turned up the fire of opposition to all she believed. I wanted a daughter who would stand firm and - through the reminder of her name of God's good grace - push us all to stand firm, as well.
I remembered the words of Hananiah and his friends, as King Nebuchadnezzar threatened to throw them into the flames for not bowing to his idol, "[O]ur God whom we serve is able to deliver us out of your hand, O king." (Daniel 3:17) Our God is able. In ALL circumstances, He is able.
And then what followed, "But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods" (Daniel 3:18, emphasis added)
But if not.
Our God is able to deliver us from earthly suffering, but sometimes He chooses not to - and yet He is faithful, and as these men stood firm, even with the knowledge that God may choose not to deliver them from the fire, they declared their loyalty to the God of Heaven.
This is the strength I wish for all of us - the strength to trust in the goodness of our God, knowing He is able in all circumstances, and trusting that if He should choose not to deliver us from the fire, He is sovereign and His will is good. And this is the reason we chose to name our daughter for one of the many great heroes of faith.