God is constantly at work in our lives. He is in the constant process of molding our hearts and spirits to be more susceptible to His voice, and pruning out the junk that can suffocate His ultimate will in our lives. God wants us to be holy, shining, vessels of His son, Jesus, and He is most often in the midst of our trials and circumstances to do a deeper work in us so that He can ultimately do a great work through us.
Over the past several months God has been raising up and removing whole sorts of junk in my life – pride, lies, and insecurities that have been deeply rooted in my life. The process has been painful, to say the least, and has left a deep sting, because of pride, and a void that I am humbly having to allow God to heal and fill with His joy.
The other week I stumbled across the Proverbs 17:3 where the writer reminds us of the process in which precious metals are melted in order to be poured out into shapes. The verse reads:
The crucible is for silver and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.
I love this analogy of metal working in comparison to our lives and how God is working to transform our lives to be holy reflections of His glory. Let me explain why, because I am sure you may be wondering why a crucible and a furnace have anything to do with the trials in our lives.
Most metal pieces – used for jewelry and smaller sculptures – are broken globs of metal and unless the metal-smith is planning to carve the final design into the raw metal, the globs need to first be cast into a mold, then shaped, and eventually polished. All throughout the process, the metal must undergo constant firings to both purify the metal from impurities that have been collected overtime, and strengthen the metal for the next phase.
The process of beginning a metal piece always begins with the initial melting of the globs of metal. For silver (I’ll use this since I’ve worked with this metal before), the process begins in a crucible, a ceramic or stone based bowl. Once all the pieces of silver have been added, the crucible must be placed under an intensely hot flame. The melting phase does two things. First, it liquefies the silver to the point that it can be poured into a mold that is sufficient enough to begin the creating process. Second, the melting raises the impurities of the silver to the surface. As the metal is liquefied and shaped under the heat, the impurities remain at the top. Once the heat is removed and the silver and the impurities solidify and the two elements are left divided. The metal-smith now must remove the impure end of the cast. There are a variety of ways to remove this part of the cast piece, but the simplest way is with a single, well-trained, blow to the end of the mold – this can be done because the impurities cause a weakness in this section of the silver mold. The area can break easily, without shattering the rest of the mold.
As the original mold is then hammered, pressed, etched, and soldered the metal must continue a process of being placed under the fire until it is red-hot (on the brink of melting) each time the shaping process reaches a breaking point. The re-firing of the metal continues to strengthen the metal from factures and removes additional impurities that are picked up during the shaping process.
Just like the metal, God is taking us through uncomfortable circumstances to test (as the proverbs writer explains) and ultimately purify our hearts and strengthening our faith. God is using the fire of these trials to bring us into a deeper and holier stand before Him. However, we must be cautious as such trials can often cause us to become frustrated, and bitterness enters in because our pride, our desire for control over our lives, and our faith are challenged. We must learn to humbly welcome the trials and inner work that God wants to do in us – a mindset I am still learning to own. James tells us to take pure joy in such trials because of the maturity that these trials produce in us.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4 (ESV)
The pruning and molding processes will occur throughout our lives, and God is using these trails to deepen our faith; to help us trust His leading and direction, to learn His voice in the midst of our daily lives and to follow Him, knowing that in the end His will is best. Cling to God during these trials. Reflect on Psalm 46 and specifically on verse 10, where God tells the psalmist:
“Be still, and know that I am God”
The “being still” is not a physical stillness as Jay Kim pointed out at this year’s Winter Retreat, but rather a willingness to become aware and ultimately reliant on the presence of God in any circumstance.
It would be easy to say that going through the challenges and trials over the past several months have been worth it; as I know ultimately that God is working out a deeper purpose. However, the bigger truth is that through the challenges, the constant heart, spirit and mind checks and despite the pain, I’ve had the chance to have a time of clinging on to God and am learning to trust Him with deeper areas in my life. The ultimate outcome when we learn to trust God and allow Him to have His way, is a deeper awakening and freedom to the life He intended for us have and a purer more real worship of our Holy God.
Author: Emily “EmJ” James