Furnace of Affliction
This week I want to do things a little bit differently. I know that I normally write about some circumstance in my life, but when I knew that I was supposed to talk about trials, I couldn’t decide on just one to focus on. You see, the thing about trials is this, we almost always have at least one. Even the lack of a trial can be a trial in and of itself. What are you going to do when everything is going ‘right’? Are you still going to pray and seek and follow? Or are you going to start relying on your own strength?
The point that I want to get to is this: trials are necessary. We sing songs, listen to messages, and pray about God giving us pure hearts, but often we run from the very tool that He uses to do so. Isaiah 48:10b says, “I have refined you in the furnace of affliction.” That’s not an aspect of God that we talk about very often. Those types of messages don’t normally draw crowds, but they are supremely necessary.
“For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” - Matthew 5:45b NLT
Running from affliction is like a flower protecting itself against the rain. How silly would a little plant look slowly withering away underneath its umbrella? That’s exactly what we do when we run from our affliction and trials. They are the very tool that will change us, that will refine away all of the things that are holding us back. It’s through them that things like pride and selfishness are removed. They are where we are freed from laziness and complacency and compromise. But we must walk through them, we must feel them in order to be changed by them. When we walk through our afflictions with God we become more than the person that entered into them. It is through them that we become who He created us to be.
“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold--though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
-1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT
This is one of the stumbling points that I’ve seen many people stub their toes on. I totally get it! I know what it’s like to look at my own pain and feel the temptation to begin to question God’s goodness and love. I mean if I have a dime for every time I heard someone say “If God is so good then how come insert bad thing here?” I could at least buy a fancy coffee, maybe even with an extra espresso shot. Yes, there is sin and free will and the consequences of fallen man and such, but sometimes those things that we are holding against God are the very thing that He is allowing for us to get free from what has us bound. If He left us as He found us—broken and bound and slaves to sin—then I would be more inclined to question His goodness than I do when He moves for us to be set free from it. Here’s the thing: He’s God and I am not. Who am I to tell Him what tools He should use to bring about my freedom—to purify my heart? And who are you to put dictates on your own?
I think one of the best pictures of refinement in scripture is Abraham being told to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22. I’ve had a handful of conversations with people that have struggled to grapple with their feelings about this part of scripture, which I find interesting seeing as how Abraham (who lived through it) handled it better than some of the people that read about it, but that is neither here nor there. Abraham knew that God kept His word. God said that Isaac would have descendants, so he was going to somehow walk away from this. Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son had nothing to do with murder and everything to do with refinement. There was something in Abraham that needed to die. Instead of Isaac dying on the mountain that day, something that had Abraham bound did.
That, beloved, is what it looks like to endure through a trial. It’s doing the right thing, making the hard decision, walking away from the person or the activity or whatever, even if no one else understands or supports it! It’s obeying because God said and leaving the rest up to Him. No matter the hurt, no matter the heat, no matter what!
I want to be so thoroughly refined that when I am faced with the furnace of affliction I come out not even smelling like smoke—that there is nothing left to be burnt off of me. This means it’s going to get hot in the meantime!
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.”
-2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NLT
The process of refinement is arduous. Fire is hot, and the fire used to refine metal is hotter still—think close to two-thousand degrees Fahrenheit hot. There is crushing and breaking and sifting, there is heat and separating and shaping. It is time-consuming but it is necessary. There is treasure hidden away in the ore and the only way for that treasure to be revealed is to submit to the process.
It’s time that we stop running from affliction, trials, and testing. It’s time that we stand in the face of them and do not bow! There is healing there. There is freedom there. There is transformation and change and new life. There is a testimony being written from that place! A testimony that the world needs to see! I want people to look at me and see Jesus, which means I need to endure through times of suffering and affliction, just like He did! Hebrews 5:8 says, “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” He is our example in all things, not because Jesus was in a place of sin or disobedience but if the perfect son of God was tested at every point then how much more do we need to be tried and tested?
So let us take up our cross, bear the weight and keep moving toward the goal. There is freedom on the other side of the affliction. It’s time to take a deep breath, clench our teeth and walk through the fire. Yes, there will be pain but it will always be worth it—He will always be worth it!
Written by Amanda Strauser