In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of TRIALS. These have come so that your FAITH-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though REFINED by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. ~ 1 Peter 1:6-7
David Earley said it best.
“Gold is a very precious metal. Its sparkling character, beautiful hue, malleable makeup, and unique metallurgical properties-including resistance to tarnishing and corrosion and virtual indestructability-have made gold one of the world’s most coveted precious metals since early history. Ancient Egyptian, Minoan, Assyrian, and Etrusan artists produced elaborate gold artifacts as early as 3000 BC. As increasingly complex economic systems developed, gold was used as a high-denomination currency and eventually as a backing for paper currency systems. Yet when it is mined, gold is not in a pure state. Naturally occurring gold is dispersed throughout the earth’s crust and is usually combined with other elements, such as silver, copper, platinum, and palladium. In order to isolate pure gold, a refining process must occur. Gold is smelted by skilled craftsmen using intense heat. Fire separates the gold and silver from the dross impurities. The furnace is heated to extremely high temperatures. Gold melts at 1,062 degrees Celsius or 1,943 degrees Fahrenheit; therefore, it is smelted at temperatures above that. Refining is a practice that must be done precisely and methodically to encure the full recovery of gold and to produce an end product that is free of impurities. Goldsmiths heat the gold ore in a furnace. As they do, the impurities separate from the gold, and they skim them off. This takes time, as not all of the impurities were dislodged at once; different ones are only revealed as the temperature increases. After the appropriate amount of heat and subsequent removal of impurities, the final product is beautiful, pure gold.“
And so it is with us.
What Peter is trying to say is that while GOLD is a very precious metal and valuable in this life, our FAITH is much more valuable in this life on earth and more so as we pass to the other side of eternity. This kind of FAITH is only REFINED in the school of affliction, hardship, trouble and trial. It can take a lifetime. The ever present intense heat of severe suffering separates our pure FAITH in God from the dross, the MESSiness of our trust in material things, other people, and our own false sense of self-sufficiency. Only a pure FAITH will get us through the tough TRIALS, the MESS that life on this side of eternity brings.
As I walked through the broken up streets, watching the impact of a shattered MESS and having the privilege of ministering to the physical, emotional and spiritual sufferings of the Haitian people ~ I was reminded that God is removing the dross; the MESSiness of all humanity attaches itself to and uses it to REFINE our souls. Oh, how hard it is to rejoice, and then to rejoice, is a choice. I left Haiti sensing hope ~ the hope that God will take that which was and is shattered and bring forth a beauty out of the MESSy ashes! I know God is so much bigger than my limited view. One day the unseen will be seen. The MESS of Haiti along with the MESSES we face will one day be revealed, the MIRACLE is in the REFINING process.
Bigger ~ a poem I wrote for Haiti.
Situational sadness feels like a waste,
this chaos and circumstance are hard to face.
Pressures increase and present their case,
when God steps in and redeems the chase.
God in his mercy and grace on the move,
more than one can imagine or simply remove.
Job and our suffering are BIGGER than we,
God is the ruler over earth, man and sea.
Job’s story unfolds as trials take a hold,
trusting in God’s glory yet standing so cold.
Seeking a refuge, a trust in God’s BIGGER plan,
this ruler of creation is in absolute command.
Every good, a perfect gift comes from above,
remembering all things as a labor of love.
Sensing my need and with so many questions,
resting in silence what appears from Heaven.
Loss and grief, a reality pounds within,
immense sovereign God takes a walk and begins.
Honored by God, he speaks out from the storm,
his glory flows in, love heals and restores.
Like Job to the LORD, we said thanks evermore,
no plan is a thwart, praise to You all the more.
Good things come from You, though Satan feels mighty,
no need to demand answers, for You are ALMIGHTY.
Job 42:3 ~ You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things too wonderful for me to know.
The MESS of TRIALS and adversity has a way of reminding us that we are not the center of the universe. Pain has the power to point out our insufficiency, our MESSiness. It reminds us of our naked insecurity that comes in this MESS of a fallen world and the vast dependency upon the God of the universe. The MIRACLE is that it forces us to depend on others, walk in humility and turn to the LORD. When suffering, sorrow and pain has thrown us a strong curve and we have nowhere to look but up, then it is in that moment that we truly see God! And that I would say is a MIRACLE!
Photo taken by Jenna Lynn Shenk while serving together on a medical ~ prayer team in Haiti after the earthquake 2010.