A number of years ago my husband spoke at a medical conference in Barcelona, Spain. We both fell in love with this beautiful city, its people, its culture, and (of course) its cuisine. We spent many enjoyable and informative hours exploring it all. We were enthralled by everything we saw, but there was one stop we both found to be very fascinating – the glass-blower’s shop. Not only could you purchase lovely hand-blown and crafted gifts, but you could also watch the master glass-blower at work. He would take a shapeless, ordinary-looking piece of glass and transform it into a work of art. But for this transformation to take place, the glass first had to be subjected to the intense heat of a fiery furnace. I couldn’t help but see God as the Master glass-blower and me as that shapeless blob of glass who is in the continuing process of being transformed.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of being transformed into the image of God. That led me to think about the various ways God uses to bring about the necessary changes so we can reflect Him more clearly. Often He speaks to us through His living Word, during prayer, through a powerful sermon or an insightful book. Other times God molds us with counsel and encouragement of wise friends and family. These methods and others are powerful and effective, but I have discovered there is one way that has made a profound difference in my spiritual life – times of adversity.
We all experience seasons of testing and trials and we don’t like it one little bit. Perhaps during these times we need to ascertain if God is giving us an opportunity to become even more beautiful through the adversity. Like the master glass-blower, He knows we “ordinary blobs of glass” need to go through the fire so the Master can mold and make us into the beautiful work of art He designed us to be. This is certainly not a pleasant way to be transformed. In fact, if we are honest, it is profoundly painful and we would like to run and hide. Unfortunately, that is not an option, because difficult circumstances in life don’t just go away because we find them painful. So if we can’t escape the fire of adversity, we need to decide how we are going to endure it. There are many things we could choose to do, but the one way that has worked again and again is to obediently submit to the Father’s loving hands as He purifies and molds us.
The good news is that if we choose the path of obedience, no matter how painful the moment, He is our constant companion, our strength, our shield, our refuge, and our ever present help in time of trouble. Even when we don’t “feel” His presence, we can rest in the promises that He will never leave or forsake us and that there is nothing that can separate us from His love. Adversity can be the driving force that compels us to embrace a deeper, more intimate relationship with God. The more intimate we are with Him, the more we become like Him. And the more we become like Him, the more beautiful we become – just like the glass when the glass-blower removes it from the fire.
But the question remains, “How does one endure the fiery furnace of adversity?” It is imperative that we stay close to God by being in His word, in prayer, in Bible study, and in worship. We need to take every opportunity to draw closer and closer – even when we don’t feel like it. Remembering God’s past faithfulness and mercy has also proven to be a powerful tool in enduring trials and heartaches. Romans 8:28 reminds me of the importance of looking for ways God is using the trial for my good and His glory. A good question to ask God during these times is, “What do you want me to learn?” God has assured us in His word that “weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” We need to learn to persevere, trust, and wait for God’s timing. None of this is easy, but by the Spirit’s power it is doable.
I must admit, I find it very difficult at times to think of these times of intense pain as “good and perfect” gifts from God. I continually struggle to stay content with what God has allowed to happen in my life. I have to work at adjusting to my new reality – whatever that may be. But I have discovered that faith and obedience enable me to endure the fires of adversity because I have seen the result when the time of testing is done – the fiery furnace of adversity “burns off” sins, characteristics and attitudes that are keeping me from being a more beautiful reflection of my loving Father – my selfish desires, my needs, my happiness, my pride, my…my….my…..my.
So while it is profoundly difficult to go through the fiery furnace of adversity, I welcome it because, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings becoming like him in his death…” Philippians 3:10.