When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. . . . You are honored, and I love you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you (Isa 43:2-3, 5) (NLT).
So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold — and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world (1 Pet 1:6-7) (NLT).
* * * * * * *
. . . adversity is like a fire that, rather than destroying you, can refine, strengthen, and beautify you, as a forge does with metal ore. How does it do that? How can it do that?
Gold is a precious metal, and if you put it through fire it may soften or melt but it will not kindle and go to ashes. However, gold can be filled with impurities that indeed can be destroyed. If put through the fire they burn off or rise to the surface to be skimmed off by the goldsmith. In one sense, the fire “tries” to destroy the metal put into the fire but only succeeds in making it more pure and beautiful.
Mixed in with our faith in God are all sorts of competing committments to comfort, power, pride, pleasure, and self. Our faith is largely abstract and intellectual and not very heartfelt. We may believe cognitively that we are sinners saved by God’s grace, but our hearts actually function on the premise that we are doing well because we are more decent or open-minded or hard-working or loving or sophisticated than others. We have many blemishes in our character. We are too fragile under criticism or too harsh in giving it. We are bad listeners, or ungenerous to people we think foolish, or too impulsive, or too timid and cowardly, or too controlling, or unreliable. But we are largely blind to these things, even though they darken our lives and harm other people.
Then suffering comes along. Timidity and cowardice, selfishness and self-pity, tendencies toward bitterness and dishonesty–all of these “impurities” of soul are revealed and drawn out by trials and suffering just as a furnace draws the impurities out of unrefined metal ore. Finally we can see who we really are. Like fire working on gold, suffering can destroy some things within us and can purify and strengthen other things.
Or not. It depends on our response. Peter urges his readers in various ways not to be shocked by suffering (1 Pet 4:12), not to give up hope. While suffering, they should “commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Pet 4:19), promising that “the God of all grace . . . after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong” (1 Pet 5:10). Peter is saying that the fiery furnance does not automatically make us better. We must recognize, depend on, speak with, and believe in God while in the fire. God himself says in Isaiah 43 that he will be with us, walking beside us in the fire. Knowing him personally while in our affliction is the key to becoming stronger rather than weaker in it.
If you believe in Jesus and you rest in him, then suffering will relate to your character like fire relates to gold. Think of four things that we want. Do you know who you are, your strengths and weaknesses? Do you want to be a compassionate person who skillfully helps people who are hurting? Do you want to have such a profound trust in God that you are fortified against the disappointments of life? Do you want simply to be wise about how life goes? Those are four crucial things to have–but none of them are readily achievable without suffering. There is no way to know who you really are until you are tested. There is no way to really empathize and sympathize with other suffering people unless you have suffered yourself. There is no way to really learn how to trust in God until you are drowning.
Tim Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, 228-229, 234
Photo Courtesy of prweb.com