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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

The Purpose of Trials

Roasting marshmallows by the campfire is a fond childhood memory of mine. Standing near the glowing flames, we would ignite two white marshmallows just long enough to char a thin black crust outside and melt the gooey inside. Years ago, fire represented times of fun, food, and fellowship!

Years later, I learned that fire has a biblical application – not as the fun-filled fires of my youth, but as something infinitely more important. Throughout Scripture, we find numerous references to God refining His children through fiery trials in much the same way an earthly refiner uses fire to purify gold and silver. The Lord says, 

“I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10 NIV).

I finally made the connection when I found myself in God’s crucible. The process was painful and dragged on for months, and I vividly remember the powerful emotions that churned inside me day and night. Yet, a time came when the Lord gently reminded me that He remains with us throughout our most painful and unexpected trials. Even when the heat and pain intensify, our Refiner is with us.

Throughout Scripture, God mirrors the earthly process of a refiner to show how he operates as our heavenly Refiner. The unforgettable imagery is meant to help us understand the purpose behind our pain – to conform us to the character of Christ.

Developing Christlike character isn't immediate, though. It is forged over time, many times, through fiery trials, and we can gain much insight by understanding the refining process.

“For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver.” Psalm 66:10 (NIV)

The Refining Process

The refiner in biblical times broke up hardened ore to expose precious metals to heat. In truth, we are all rough rock in need of brokenness and God’s refining fire. 

“Is not my word like fire…and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29 NIV)

Putting the broken ore into a crucible, it then goes into the furnace. Similarly, our Refiner puts us into a crucible and then into the heated furnace to purify our hearts. 

“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.” (Proverbs 17:3 NIV)

The refiner watches as the ore melts in the crucible to see a layer of impurities – called dross – form on the surface to remove it. Painstakingly, he skims off the layer of impurity and increases the heat, repeating the process of dross removal. Again and again impurities rise to the surface. Repeatedly, the crucible is returned to the furnace to extract more dross.

Our dross is anything that keeps us from being all that God calls us to be. Why the increase in heat? Because our Refiner knows that only certain impurities are released at specific temperatures.

“And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.” (Psalm 12:6 NIV)

With utmost skill and patience, the refiner continues to remove layers of dross, purifying the silver and gold, and gauges progress by looking for his own reflection on the surface. The more dross removed, the less distorted his image. This process is continued until all impurities are removed and a clear reflection of himself is seen. 

Scripture tells us that we are to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). As we are purified through our trials, we mirror Christ a little more each time.

Enduring Your Trial with Hope

The process of refining these precious metals describes our Refiner's loving intentions for allowing us to be in the "furnace of affliction." It’s to become more like God and to develop Christlike character. Even so, how do we hang on to this hope amid our trials?

Job 23:10 (NIV) says, "But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold." We can endure by pressing close to and trusting God to use our pain to purify our hearts. 

Through His matchless mercy and grace, God has and always will turn our tests into a testimony. Trust in Him. 

Copyright © April 2021, June Hunt, used by permission.

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