“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.” Isaiah 42:20.
Refined. Nothing gets refined unless it takes on some serious heat. The refining process isn’t fun by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it often comes with extreme pain of one kind or another, however, it is necessary for something to be refined in order for it to know its true beauty.
When I think about the refining process that gems or metals undergo, I am reminded that the value of these natural beauties was always there; it just needed the heat of refinement in order for them to shine so brilliantly and showcase their own, unique attributes.
Truth: I am (being) refined.
If you’ve been refined, truly refined, you don’t have to think about it even for a moment. There is no mistaking that painful time in your life where God has asked you to walk through the fire and feel the heat of refinement. Perhaps it was a time in your life where you lost someone too soon, had a health scare or walked beside someone who battled for their life, watched your dreams shatter before you, or experienced something extremely traumatic or painful. Perhaps your refining has (or is) coming through someone else’s refinement. Rest assured, when you are facing heat in your life, it often means refinement that will end in glimmering beauty of one kind or another if you hang in there and weather the heat.
So many people wonder why in the world the Lord would allow such terrible things to happen in our lives. Have you ever thought, “If the Lord truly loved me, why would He allow this to happen?
Sometimes God needs to test us to see if we are truly committed to Him, NO MATTER WHAT.
I think of the story of Job and the refining fire he walked through. In a nutshell, Job was a man who loved the Lord and lived solely for Him. God had given him many blessings, making him the “richest person in that area.” (Job 1:3). He had everything one could want.
And then. . .
Satan went before God and challenged Him concerning Job:
“Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” “All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence.” (Job 1:9-12)
And then.. . .
Job lost nearly everything. The Lord allowed Job to experience every kind of grief imaginable in this order:
- His lost all his livestock and most of his servants- 7,000 sheep; 3,000 camels; 500 oxen; and 500 female donkeys (Job 1:14-15, 1:16, 1:17)
- He lost his children (plural)- specifically 7 sons and 3 daughters (Job 1: 2, Job 1:18-19)
“Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said,
“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:20-21, NLT)
When Satan realized that Job did, in fact, truly love God, even after loosing so much, he attacked Job’s health (only after the Lord granted this too (Job 2:4-6)).
Even with the painful sores that broke out on Job from ‘the sole of his foot to the crown of his head,’ he remained committed to the Lord:
“Shall we accept only the good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” (Job 2:10, NLT).
It would be odd if we didn’t have something to say to the Lord out of sheer frustration in the times of refinement. God is not surprised by our feelings and can handle our anger. This grappling shows we have a true, authentic relationship with Him. Go ahead and grapple! Job definitely grappled with the Lord as he processed all that he had lost. Job 10 gives us a glimpse at his grappling as does Job 13 and Job 31:
“I desire to argue my case with God.” (Job 13:3)
“Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.”
In the 31st chapter of Job, he tries to justify this refinement but comes up empty-handed. He had been a strong man of God who had not waffled in his relationship with Lord and had made choices throughout his life that only served to honor God. It didn’t make any sense!
But it didn’t need to. We hold onto this life so tightly, thinking that everything we’ve been given is OURS. The truth is, nothing is truly ours. God has entrusted us with much, however, it all belongs to Him and He gets to decide what he will allow for us to endure in this breath of a life He’s allowed us to live. He promises us this: “That in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV). Our job is to trust Him, no matter what.
In the end, Job endured the all that God had allowed and Job knew his love for the Lord was real because it had been tested with intense heat. Job died an old man and “the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. . ” (Job 42:12, NLT).
Let us not forget the most important part of this story: Satan was defeated! None of his attempts caused Job to stumble in his faith and curse God. All of these hardships brought him closer to the Lord. Job’s refinement came as a result of God’s battle with Satan. God will win every single time and sometimes He chooses us to join Him in this very personal battle. He used Job as His warrior even though Job had no clue this is what was truly going on. He was simply faithful in the fire and Satan was put in his place.
Sometimes we need a wake-up call.
I am sure you have all heard and or used these popular verses:
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:11-13, NIV)
However, it is important to know the context of this passage. These verses come after Jeremiah has just been instructed by the Lord to tell the Israelites that they would be taken captive for 70 years by the Babylonians and loose everything that they had been given.
Throughout the entire Old Testament, the Lord disciplines the Israelites for their disobedience and wayward hearts. Over and over again, the Lord brings about devastation in order to give His children a wake-up call and remind them that they are lost sheep, following every other shepherd under the sun except for their true Shepherd.
As much as idolatry captured the hearts of those long ago, it still does today, in each of us. Nothing should lure us away from Christ, however, life subtly creeps in and before we know it, something has pulled us away from seeking Him first. Instead we are seeking that other “something” and we quickly become lost. In these moments, He needs to get us back on track and does so, sometimes, by allowing some unpleasant discipline come our way.
But rest in these truths:
“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”(Psalm 30:5, NLT)
“For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” (Hebrews 12:6, NLT)
Sometimes God needs to remind us what we’re made of.
When the fire of refinement comes our way that causes us feel insufficient and unqualified, let us remember this truth:
“I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13, NIV).
Left to ourselves, we couldn’t possibly do the things He’s put before us. He knows this and he has put these ‘impossibles’ before us anyway so that we will (1) depend solely on Him and (2) bring Him glory.
I think about young David who was 12 years old, had no fighting experience, and was a simple shepherd boy up against Goliath who was a 9’9″ Philistine warrior. As for protection, he chose no armor nor sword nor shield rather a sling shot and 5 stones. David understood that God was going to fight this battle and that David simply needed to be His willing participant. The chances of David winning through worldly eyes: None. The chances of David winning through the eyes of His Lord: 100%. We are who God is through us: Victorious, in this case.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
Refinement is often what is necessary to reveal true beauty. Let the Lord refine you in whatever ways He sees fit in order to draw you closer to himself. All the while, He will be holding your right hand and reminding you, “Do not be afraid. I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13).
“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does.” (Job 23:10-13, ESV)