Fiery Furnace of Adversity

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.

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Come After Me

While working at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in the summer of 1968, I was introduced to the most gorgeous and intelligent man I had ever encountered.  He had a kind, gentle spirit.  He was truly interested in other people and made them feel comfortable and valued.  He was generous and caring….. and he made me laugh.  I wasted no time in falling madly in love with this fascinating man named David DeHeer.  After our second date I told my roommate that I was going to marry him.  Unfortunately, David did not receive that “memo” because at the end of the summer he went back to Tucson to begin graduate school at the University of Arizona.  My determination to marry this man was strong.  My love for him was intense and my desire to be with him compelled me to leave everything and everyone I knew in the Midwest and follow him to the southwest desert.

Moving across the country to a place where I knew no one was not a deterrent because I was a woman on a mission.  I was in passionate pursuit of the man I loved.  Being a wily and somewhat intelligent female, I knew that if I moved to Tucson I would scare him off.  I also knew if I stayed in Minnesota I would never see him again.  So I moved to Phoenix – just far enough away to not throw David into a panic, but close enough to date.  I am happy to say, my plan worked like a charm and within the year my man had proposed to me.  I had 42 years with this great man of God and I am grateful for every one of them.

I would have followed David anywhere because I was in love with him.  That fervent need to be in his presence, to get to know him, to hear his voice, and to grow in relationship with him reminds me of the need we all have to be in a similar passionate pursuit of Jesus Christ.  In fact, He invites us to “come after me” in Luke 9:23.  I want my love for Jesus to be so fervent and impassioned that coming after Him consumes my every waking thought, dictates my actions and is the focus of how I live my life. I want to follow after him with such enthusiasm that all my resources and energy – everything I am and everything I own – is dedicated to knowing Him more.  I long to be like Paul who said in Philippians 3:8, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ….”

In Jesus’ invitation to “come after him” He tells us that this is not necessarily easy.  It will involve denying ourselves as we totally submit to God’s will in our lives as well as taking up our cross, the cross of obedience.  Christ’s journey of obedience led Him to Golgotha.  We don’t know where our future path lies, but we do know the One who is directing our ways. Choosing to come after Jesus and follow Him is an investment that asks us to sacrifice self – self-interest, self-preservation, self-reliance, self-will.  Coming after Jesus and following Him can even complicate relationships with those we care about.  However, these sacrifices don’t begin to compare with the pure joy of loving and being loved by the King of Kings.

I chose to willingly give up my job, leave my family, and move to an unknown town to pursue David.  I also choose to willingly give up all I hold dear on this earth to follow after Jesus.  His love is all I need.  His presence is all I want.  His face is what I long to see.  I invite you to join me in the passionate pursuit of Jesus.