Several years ago when I went through the fires of refinement and faced a serious and potentially fatal health challenge, I asked myself, as well as God, many questions.
- How did I find myself in this furnace of affliction?
- God, am I being sifted?
- God, am I being disciplined?
- Am I being punished?
- Are you going to let me be destroyed?
My husband and I were out walking by a large pond in our neighborhood. We live in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and our ponds are full of alligators. We have blue herons, snowy egrets, cormorants, ospreys, red-tailed hawks, ibis, and wood storks, all of which make our walks so incredibly delightful. That day, the gators were out in full force. There must have been five or six that we saw on our short walk. For the first time ever we heard an alligator growl. Our neighbors who were walking several steps ahead stopped and shouted back, “Hey, did you hear that?” “Yes,” I said, “But what is it?” He said that it was the sound of an alligator in mating season.
It reminded me of a time when I was a young woman and I growled at my husband like that. It was in the labor room as I was getting ready to give birth to our son, Logan. I had been in eighteen hours of hard, “Pitocin-induced” labor, with its characteristic intense and abrupt contractions of the uterus. I cannot remember ever being in such pain. It seemed as though it would go on forever and that there was no end in sight.
However, when my sweet baby son was placed in my arms, all the pain I had experienced seemed to fade away from my memory. As I peered into his beautiful blue eyes, I saw in him the reflection of my husband and me looking down at him. Joy. What joy! He was perfect.
When a baby is being born, he has to be pushed through the birth canal. He has to leave his place of security and comfort and go to a new place, a place of the unknown. It cannot be a pain-free process for either the mother or the child but, when complete, the baby feels safe in his parents’ arms. The child quickly identifies with the mother who carried him for nine months and the child recognizes the father as he quickly connects with him also. The pain is soon forgotten and the joy of this new child takes its place.
If you have ever had children you might remember that precious look in your baby’s eyes when they first looked up and recognized their father. The newborn knows almost nothing, yet he knows to whom he belongs. Think back to the time when you saw the father gazing into the eyes of his newborn. Dad was beaming with joy at every sound and every little movement.
Now take this picture of a father and a newborn and apply that to how God feels when we have come through a difficult period of refinement. He smiles down at His child. He is so pleased. He sees more of His own perfect reflection as He gazes into the soul, which has been refined. Was all the pain worth it? Yes. Yes. Yes. Pain is here for a time, but there is a joy that comes in the morning, after the darkness of the night. Joy bubbles up on the inside of you when you come through the fires of refinement. It is a joy that cannot compare with mere happiness. It’s deeper. It’s richer. It’s more intense. It is a joy that cannot be shaken.
God sees Himself in the eyes of the refined soul. Embrace refinement. Remember what happens to you when you get through it. You’ve heard the old cliché, “Don’t get bitter; get better.” The getting better part is the very purpose of refinement. It is not punishment. It is tough love. When going through a difficult season of life, remember this:
- Discipline is the result of something we have done, while refinement is the preparation for your calling.
- Discipline is a loving way to get you back on track with God, and refinement is a loving way to fill you with more of Him in preparation for the work ahead.
- God always wants to move us from glory to glory, but to get to the next level of glory He must take us through the fires of refinement.
Let God refine you so that you will better reflect His grace, His mercy and His love, and you can be assured that you will live a life of no regrets.