Refinement. The word sounds lovely and even stately when used as the adjective refined. Even the presence of the word implies luxury. If it’s describing something you want to buy, it means you’re going to pay a higher cost. That is the defining piece to the process of refinement. It costs.
Refinement could actually be considered gruesome or harsh. When it comes to precious metals, extreme heat is required. The metals are melted down until the dross is separated, and all that’s left is pure gold or silver. For diamonds to develop, carbon has to undergo extreme pressure and heat over an extended period of time. Even for wood carvings or sculptures to take form, the artist has to remove, to cut away, to whittle and to shape the medium to uncover beauty and significance from it.
While I want the end product of being shaped and refined, I don’t want the pain or the time it takes to complete. I desire to grow in character, faith, and godly wisdom, but the refining fire is not something I would cheerfully enter. For me, the prayer for growth and wisdom is prayed with fear in my heart. The people I know with faith and character I admire have undergone pain and trial to get there. I don’t know why God uses pain as the scalpel to shape us, but I’ve seen Him whittle many into faith-filled vessels through heartache countless times. He did it with Job and so many others throughout Scripture. I guarantee that you can name at least two people in your own life who have deepened their relationship with Jesus in response to tragedy or trial. I’m not really wanting to be the poster child for hard-earned testimony.
But I also can’t stay here. This isn’t good enough. I’m not who I want to be. Not for my God. Not for my husband, my kids, my loved ones, my team at work. I want more. More character. More wisdom. More humility. More patience. (I shuddered a little as a typed those last two. We all know NEVER to pray for those.)
It’s taken this past weekend, fighting my fourth cold this winter, for God to halt my striving to survive. By no means am I suggesting that fighting a cold is pain that God is using to refine me. He only used that to slow me down and get me still. Being quarantined and quiet (truly, this round took my voice, too) has allowed me time to be challenged with the question: Do I trust God to grow me lovingly?
Do I believe He works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28)? Do I believe He is a good Father? The Good Shepherd? I can look back and see His faithfulness, time and time again. His provision is all over my life. Trusting Him with my growth is worth the risk. I want to be the result of the process. He wants to me to know Him more deeply through it. I pray God will embolden my prayers. I pray He will grow my faith so that I will not fear the process but enjoy his companionship throughout it.
Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.