A quick surge of indignation welled up inside me towards the unsuspecting and I’m sure well-meaning woman.
And I found myself countering her comment with her own words.
“You’re right, she’ll never be the same.” And then I went on to explain.
You see, I had the special privilege of spending time with my friend a few days after her tragic event and, among the grief and pain, I saw something special and something deep. It was a seed maybe, or even a little sprout of something that only God himself can plant. And it was being sowed in the fertile soil of a receptive heart.
Through her pain, my friend’s faith was being stretched to measures far beyond herself. And I’m guessing that when time passes and healing has done its work, she will have grown so much she might not recognize herself in the mirror.
No, she’ll never be the same.
Although no one welcomes tragedy, when it strikes it is crucial, I think, to cling to the only one who can take us through victoriously.
Even in more minor situations, we have the same choice don’t we? We can let God do his work in our hearts – or we can shut him out.
It’s an important decision because, well, who we become depends on it.
When I struggle, I sometimes think of “refining fire” scriptures like Isaiah 48:10: “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” Like in the fiery process of refining silver, God sometimes uses difficult or painful situations to purify us and take us to new heights with him.
I like what my Life Application Bible says about this scripture: “Do you find it easy to complain when your life becomes complicated or difficult? Why would a loving God allow all kinds of unpleasant experience to come to his children? This verse shows us plainly that God tests us in the ‘furnace of affliction.’ Rather than complain, our response would be to turn to God in faith for the strength to endure, and rejoice in our sufferings. For without the testing, we would never know what we are capable of doing, nor would we grow.”
I had a pastor once who told us that he used to pray a prayer in difficulties that went something like this:
“Whatever I need to learn from this God, teach me it this time through, because I don’t want to come back here again!”
Wise words, right?
Currently, I’m rereading Hannah Hurnard’s, “Hinds’ Feet on High Places.” The book is a beautiful allegory of spiritual transformation. Its main character, “Much-Afraid,” wants to go the “high places” with the Good Shepherd, but on the journey she is constantly being tested in areas where she is most vulnerable. Step by step each fear and sin is overcome with the Chief Shepherd’s help.
And at the beginning of the book, at the very onset of Much-Afraid’s journey to the high places, the Chief Shepherd gives her two veiled companions to accompany her on her way. Their names? Sorrow and Suffering.
It seems that the Chief Shepherd felt these two were the best teachers to help Much-Afraid though her transformation into becoming, “Grace and Glory.”
I have another friend who is going through a season of suffering and when she heard that I was going to write on this topic, she said: “the hardest thing about being refined is accepting that the new us is better somehow. We cling to what we were -- that less scarred version of us. But ultimately, we must accept that the new version is better suited to God's purposes.”
You know, I’ve got a feeling that this friend too will soon be a bit hard to recognize. Why?
Here are some Bible verses that'll help you on your journey:
Job 23:10 English Standard Version But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
1 Peter 1:7 New Living Translation These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
James 1:2-4 New Living Translation Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.