Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.
I have yet to develop a desire for affliction. To this day, I can guarantee that the words, “I sure hope to be hit by a killer migraine today,” or “Boy, what I wouldn’t give to engage in battle with cancer,” have never once crossed my lips.
Affliction of any sort is unpleasant. Unpleasant, but not unprofitable.
In fact, I would venture to say that my faith in God has grown more through times of discomfort than times of ease. That is not to say that my faith has been unshaken – far from it! In truth, my faith has been shaken, stirred, turned inside-out, boiled, numbed, seared, battered, and even left for dead. But it has not been destroyed.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
(2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
Oh, I will admit that I have had my moments of doubt; wondering how a God who loves so deeply could stand to watch so much pain. But then… He not only watches pain, He participated in it.
With an infinite God, there is also an infinite capacity to suffer, and the agony He suffered on the cross was far more that mere physical pain. It was an agony of the soul; a tearing apart of a blessed Unity when the Man, Yeshua, took upon His human shoulders the burden of countless sins He did not commit.
When viewed from the proper perspective, my own misery seems puny in comparison.
No, true faith and trust in God is not consumed in the heat of the furnace of affliction. Instead, it is refined; for as the blistering heat reveals weakness and impurity in all forms, they can be gradually separated and removed. Bit by bit, trial by trial, the faith I have in God is slowly but certainly becoming less about what He does for me and more about Him.
One lesson I am learning through pain is that He will not yield His glory to another, not even if that “another” is me.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that while I have enjoyed many times of sweet and gentle communion with my God, they are often sweeter and more delightful because of the painful trials.
Yet what I am discovering is that the things my Lord allows to be devoured by fire are the very things that hinder me in my walk with Him. The cords of self-righteousness, self-importance, selfishness…. actually a whole lot of “self” is burned until there’s nothing more than ash.
And when all is said and done, what survives the flames will be whatever brings Him glory.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”