I don’t know about you, but I like it when things in my life are “going good.” And who doesn’t!? When we’re not in pain…when our relationships are reasonably whole…when we haven’t been dealt a major setback or handed a major loss…those are the times when it’s easy to be grateful and hopeful. Those are the conditions that we strive to create through our planning, our hard work, our avoidance of difficult situations, and our willingness to grasp at the nearest available “fix” (even when it’s not likely to have much benefit over the long-term and may produce problems of its own). And while I’m certainly not suggesting that we should do the opposite and rush out to seek difficulty…I wonder.
In today’s Daily Office, the Apostle Paul reminds us of the benefits that God is able to produce in our lives only through times of suffering:
“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:2-5)
Of course, this is not the only place in scripture that this same point is made (see James 1:2-4). So perhaps we’ve got ample reason to seek an “attitude adjustment” about hardship. As Christian author Philip Yancey suggests, rather than asking “Why?” when we encounter painful and difficult times, we should ask “To what end?” and then trust that God is able to use even our pain to produce His glory within us.
I am reminded of a worship chorus that was popular a number of years ago and that spoke of the power of the “Refiner’s Fire” to reshape our lives in the image that God desires:
Purify my heart; let me be as gold and precious silver.
Purify my heart; let me be as gold, pure gold.
Refiner’s fire, my heart’s one desire is to be holy – set apart for You, Lord.
I choose to be holy – set apart for You, my Master, ready to do Your will.
Of course, it’s somewhat easy for me to meditate on such a lyric today, because right now – things in my life are “going good.” But I pray that even when they’re not, I’ll have faith enough not to extinguish the Refiner’s Fire, so that I can be fashioned into an instrument of His purpose.