It’s a sad promise that we WILL go through the overwhelming waters and the burning fire. The verse above doesn’t say “if,” it says “when.” Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you WILL have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Fortunately, when we pass through the waters and the fire, the Lord promises to be with us and we will not be swept away or burned or in any way destroyed by the trials we experience.
Years ago at a Women of Faith conference, I heard Thelma Wells share a story. Her arm was severely burned, and at the hospital, she discovered that all her costume jewelry melted and was ruined, but her good jewelry was not. Her diamonds and gold were completely intact. Thelma stated it was because the “good jewelry was pure.”
Never one to leave a perfectly good illustration alone, I took it a step further and asked: WHY and HOW was the good jewelry pure?
Chemically, scientifically, a diamond is carbon – charcoal – a soft substance so easily destroyed in fire it is used for fuel. It’s black, dirty, and full of impurities. How does it become one of the clearest, and hardest substances on earth? Years and years and years of intense pressure. The pressure forces the impurities out of the carbon and makes the diamond into one of the most formidable and durable substances on earth.
When gold is mined from the earth, it looks nothing like the shiny jewelry we love. The process of refining gold requires heat, lots of it. The gold is melted into liquid, and the refiner skims away the impurities – the dross – that rises to the surface.
Malachi tells us, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” Malachi 3:3
An old story goes ~ There were some passers-by watching the refiner sitting by his pot of gold hanging over the fire. They wondered how much heat the gold could endure without being destroyed, and so they asked the refiner. He responded,
“See how I sit by the fire?”
“Yes, of course, we see you.”
“Well, see how I bend over the pot, looking into it?”
“Yes, but how do you know how much heat that will allow the refining without destroying the gold?”
“I’ll know – when I see my own reflection.”
Our Refiner is always with us through whatever fiery trials we endure. We’re never alone. The flames did not set Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego ablaze. The Lord was with them in the fiery furnace. And He is close by watching carefully all that’s going on. Nothing surprises Him or occurs without His permission.
My Bible note on Isaiah 43:2 says, “Going through rivers of difficulty will either cause you to drown or force you to grow stronger. If you go in your own strength, you are more likely to drown. If you invite the Lord to go with you, He will protect you.”
But it’s more than that.
Yes, He is with us. And yes, He protects us as we go in His strength. But these fiery trials also can serve a purpose. He is producing His reflection in us as we patiently endure. Endurance produces maturity and Christ-likeness.
J.B. Phillips translates James 1:2-5 this way:
“When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence…”
It may seem impossible to welcome trials as friends. And to be honest, it probably is. But we can welcome the God who allowed them and be open to the mighty transforming work He will do in us and through us because of these difficulties.
Are you going through a fiery trial? How can I best pray for you, beloved?
- I want to see!
- Where Has the Joy Gone?