Are you feeling the heat? Are you in tough situations where it just seems to be getting worse, despite your best efforts and desperate prayers? Are you fed up of being in such a state?
In two conversations recently, the subject of patience came up. I was reminded of the difficult verses in James 1, verses 2-4
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”(NKJV)
I know that the two people I spoke to are going through serious, life-changing processes of decision-making at the moment, each of them having serious family implications to consider as a result of those decisions. However, I know, without a shadow of doubt on my part, that the decisions they have made, and continue to live with, are right. The difficulty comes, though, when we still have to face trials, even though we have done something right.
When we make tough decisions, we often hope that the difficulties surrounding them will somehow ease up. But often, things actually get hotter. It is as if the decision itself turns up the gas, and it is all too easy to believe that we have done something wrong. But the Apostle James urges us to keep on track, for patience has a “perfect work” to fulfil in each one of us.
It reminds me of the process of smelting. In industrial furnaces, when base metal is heated up (smelting), the impurities within rise to the surface. These impurities (called slag) are lighter than the purer metal, and rise as ugly black lumps, which the metal workers skim off and casts away. They are only interested in the purest form of metal. When God allows the heat to be increased in our lives, it is because He wants to use the very best of us for His work and purposes. I find that when God is developing patience in me, I would like to think that I can be serene and calm with everything going on. However, patience is wrung from me with the “slag” impurities of attitudes that I would rather were not revealed coming to the surface – irritation, anger, frustration, lack of patience, the desire to slap someone, to scream at injustice, to petulantly defend myself and generally retreat into toddlerhood!
The Message Bible renders these verses brilliantly:
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. 3 You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. 4 So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
I need to move away from attitudes, thoughts and reactions that keep me as an emotional toddler, and move towards being “mature and well-developed”. Interesting to note this idea of trying to get out of things “prematurely”. It is like the toddler in the back seat of God’s car constantly saying “Am I there yet?” How long does this process take?
As long as is necessary, I am afraid.
But I am also convinced that these processes, on an individual basis, take place, not in some huge industrial smelter; not in a huge brash way that we could state to the world “Look at Me! See how well I am coping under pressure – aren’t I wonderful?”
No. It happens in a crucible. A tiny ceramic cup often used in School chemistry lessons, where science teachers can demonstrate fun reactions, like the heating up of magnesium into a white hot glow. Such crucibles often come with tiny lids, to cover the reactions taking place within when the contents are heated. I believe that God uses such crucibles within us, turning the heat up – when everything within us would cry that we can’t actually take any more – in order to remove the attitudes that are going to hamper us on the path ahead, and also to form the absolute best of us that there can be for the exceptional tasks ahead.
And He does it in private.
He does it in a way so that often only He knows exactly what we are going through.
Be assured that He will not allow you to go through one second longer than is absolutely necessary, and also that you have no way of knowing how close you may be to the completion of this refining process. You have to trust Him, and consciously allow His peace and presence to sustain you through.
- When metal has been refined and purified, it is in liquid form.
- As such it can be poured and moulded into any shape.
- What might God be shaping you for?