March, 2023 – “Trials’ Results: Beauty”

March, 2023 – “Trials’ Results: Beauty”

A famous comedienne once said, “I’ve been rich, and I’ve been poor.  I like being rich better”.  For me it’s, “I’ve been healthy, and I’ve not been healthy.  I like being healthy more!”  We can always make some really unwise financial and/or health decisions – but, it’s not always up to us what each day is going to bring our way.  I like what the apostle Paul said in Philippians 4.12, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need”.  Was Paul a total phlegmatic personality?  (From how he was described in the New Testament, we would know that not to be so.)  Or, did he learn from his sufferings — whipped with thirty-nine lashes five different times – beaten with rods three times – stoned – shipwrecked – danger at sea – imprisoned – danger from both his own people, and Gentiles – and more . . .   But then he went and followed up with verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me”. 

When I was very young, my mother took a ceramic class using mold casting techniques.  I was impressed by her skill.  I still have a couple of pitchers that she made.  I know nothing of this craft, but when she explained that the last step for her piece of work was for it to ‘go through the fire’ – be fired in a kiln at a high temperature, I was aghast.  My young mind could only imagine the object being completely destroyed.  But it wasn’t.  The heat from the kiln only intensified the beauty of her pitcher and strengthened it, significantly.

One of my sons has a friend who is a glass blower (or glass smith).  Once again, simply put, he shapes a mass of glass that has been softened by intense heat, and then blows air into it through a tube.  You would think the intense heat would destroy the glass.  It doesn’t.

In my American home, I have a most beautiful vase filled with washed (sea) glass that my young sons and I gathered many years ago at a place in Maine that we liked to call ‘The Rocks’.  The shore is entirely made up of red rock(s) from smaller brick-sized pieces to those weighing tons.  We would walk the rocks hunting for washed glass.  (One of my boys had found so much that in loading his pockets, they began to pull his little shorts down.  We decided that he had picked up enough.)  The red, green, blue, white, and brown glass had been dashed against the bottom of the ocean for who knows how long, and finally hurled by huge waves onto the shore’s red rocks.  In that process, shards of broken glass had their sharp edges beautifully smoothed and rounded.  Also, the glass had lost its shiny surface and taken on a frosted appearance.  Instead of the glass being destroyed by its being battered, it became most beautiful!  Its harsh journey had produced undeniable beauty!

And as I look at a gold ring on my finger that my maternal grandfather once wore as his wedding ring, I know that the metal had to go through much to be this beautiful symbol of love.  Simply put, gold had to be melted (heated to approximately 1100 degrees C.), poured into a casting mold, (many more steps), and finally off to a goldsmith to make the ring.  I would think, for sure, that 2012 degrees F. would certainly ruin any piece of jewelry.  But it doesn’t.

I think of Job’s words in 23.10 – “But He knows the way that I take: When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold”.  Just as the gold, the ceramic object, and the beautiful piece of glass has had to go through fire and intense heat – and the sea (washed) glass has been through torment only to finally rest on the shore in all its colorful splendor – we, too, are allowed to go ‘through the fire’, the heat, intense trying times to bring from us beauty.  I have friends struggling with health issues, financial woes, family issues that seem too much for anyone to bear.  I can relate!  Our God is sovereign, though – nothing ever happens by chance!  We may not know it at the time when we can barely cope, but He has a purpose for our trials.  He is with us whether we ‘feel’ He is, or not.  He never leaves us nor forsakes us.  He will not push us beyond our capacity.  We have a merciful God – full of grace and compassion.

In II Corinthians 4.17, Paul called his trials ‘light afflictions, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’.  When I am going through pain (physical or emotional), I have not yet grasped Paul’s outlook on my trials.  However, on the other side of affliction, I have seen that the Lord had something for me to learn – to see and know Him better, to rely on Him a-new, or perhaps He’s even been protecting me from greater harm.  We will all go through a fire, trial, pain, hurt, or loss, but like Job, ‘we WILL come forth as gold!’  Hold onto the One Who never leaves us nor forsakes us.  He has something amazing waiting for us that ultimately will eclipse our earthly trials!