Refiner’s fire – The word isn’t new for us as Christians. We have heard it in many sermons. There are many songs written about it. Many books and articles describe its analogy with life’s various trials. The Bible tells us how God refines our lives like silver or gold are refined in the furnace.
Isaiah 48:10 says, “Behold, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
We are like a lump of unrefined metal in His hands. He is our refiner. Just like the refiner sees the value of the unrefined metal and what it can become, our Master Refiner sees the richness and the value of our lives and what we can become.
“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.” Malachi 3:3
How does the refinement process for the silver or gold works?
A metal such as gold or silver can be purified when it is melted at a high temperature. The dross or the impurities rises to the top and it is then removed from the metal before it cools down. The process of heating continues until the metal is pure. Though it seems like the fire will destroy the metal, it only makes it more pure and valuable.
“For you have tested us, O God; you have refined us as silver is refined.” Psalm 66:10
How does God’s refinement process work?
Certain trials or afflictions God allows in our lives because He has a purpose for them. But none of us really likes to be in this place. It’s hard, it’s hot, it’s painful, it’s inconvenient, it’s frightening and it’s hurting being here. But, just like the metal endures the process of its refining, you and I are to endure the process of our refining in the furnace of life’s trials. And this is only possible when we truly understand the refiner’s place in the metal’s life, when we choose His will and ways instead of our own, when we are willing to change when He reveals to us our impurities or our weaknesses and when we are willing to fully trust His heart of love in the process no matter how long it takes or how ‘hot’ it gets.
It has always been a very challenging and emotionally overwhelming situation for me when my husband travels out of town. I feel very helpless managing both the kids without his support and it just feels like I am a lonely soldier on a battlefield without any weapon.
I understand that it is required of him to travel but staying alone with children with special needs isn’t an easy task. The entire family schedule goes upside down. I am sleep deprived. I hardly get to have a bath or food on time. My 8 years old son’s only friend is his dad and he, being so attached to him, feels lonely and gloomy all the time. His only companion will be the laptop until his dad returns. My daughter on the other hand needs my much attention for her needs and I have to carry her around the house even to get a glass of water for myself when she cries and refuses to stay on the bed by herself.
No anticipated results + No pat on my shoulder + No favourable circumstances = I quit
This has been my equation for so long. I have always needed evident results to carry on any work. For me to stay encouraged and not to give up on anything, I always need someone to cheer me up and believe in me so I can trust in myself. Good outcomes keep me motivated to go ahead and the opposite of them makes me give up.
So, on one particular day, when I noticed that I had been getting few views and visitors on my blog posts, I came to the conclusion that I probably should quit writing as there are not many people who are relating with what I want to share. Writing and sharing a blog post has always been a lonely journey for me but at this very moment when I couldn’t see many views on the view bar, I felt I am not making a big difference through my writing. I felt unqualified and uncreative in running a blog.
As I flipped through the pages of my previous years’ diaries and read the many goals and hopes I had for each New Year, I felt I had not been so progressive in achieving them and I had just written them in the excitement of the New Year’s new beginnings. Though I consoled myself for reaching few of the goals to some extent and wanted to celebrate the little victories, deep down I felt I was a failure.
Every year at the start of the New Year, I was so thrilled to write my goals and resolutions on the very first page. But this time, I didn’t feel motivated to write my goals or even hope ahead for many fulfilling days.
Before filling the fresh blank pages of my new diary, before writing any new goals in it for the New Year, I thought I needed to first stop, re-evaluate myself and search deeper for the answers for my depressing thoughts and feelings.
I sat in the doctor’s cabin with my daughter Jennie in my arms and an expectation in my heart that the doctor we were meeting may suggest some better treatment plan for her. After all, he was the expert, a well-experienced and renowned Neuro physician in the state. It had taken a lot of effort to reach him and get the appointment which seemed difficult to get initially.
“Jennie Livingston – No. 7” was the call from the hospital staff and I rushed carrying her in my arms, adjusting my mask and holding her previous reports in my hand to see the doctor I was keen to meet.
As a part of my son’s 3rd grade curriculum, he was to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly. So, the other day I was doing a little bit of research on it to teach him in a better way. Even though I knew the four stages of its life cycle, I never had a detailed probe into knowing much about butterflies. And most importantly, to teach him better, I needed to first understand it better 🙂
So, as I searched for some videos and pictures about the different stages of this tiny, beautiful creature, I was mostly fascinated with the 3rd stage of its growth. It’s the pupa which is also called “chrysalis”. Well, we all know that the caterpillar is to remain in the pupa for few days to be transformed into an adult butterfly. But there’s still something else interesting I have found about it.
If you open the chrysalis in the middle of the process, there is just some sticky liquid substance in there and not a caterpillar which is having a cosy nap inside the shell until it gets its wings. In fact, during this stage, the caterpillar’s old body dies and a new body begins to form. The caterpillar has to fall apart completely. And from this liquid state, it starts to put itself together to become the beautiful being it is designed to be.
And another amazing thing is the word “chrysalis”. It is derived from Greek which means “golden” because of the golden threads which surround the green of the chrysalis.
Chrysalis – The tough times of life
You probably have heard in many inspiring messages about this chrysalis stage and how it represents the tough times of our lives which are actually the transformation times for us. But most often, when we actually find ourselves in this phase, all we want is to come out of it, assuming that sufferings aren’t meant for the believers of Christ. Often times, we tend to devalue our chrysalis stage. But in reality, the very sufferings of our Saviour was the only perfect way for us through which we could know God and have a personal relationship with Him. There is a Cross right in the centre of the Gospel we believe in.
Chrysalis is the place of deep transformation
While stuck in the chrysalis stage, we keep on asking God to remove the uncomfortable and ugly looking shell of our hardships and grief from our lives. We want Him to change our circumstances but He wants us to be changed in the process of it.
Because, the deeper work within our souls takes place only being in the Chrysalis.
Our faith is refined being in the Chrysalis.
The most crucial life lessons are learnt being in the Chrysalis.
Our relationship with our Master Creator is deepened being in the Chrysalis.
The inessential parts of our character are shredded being in the Chrysalis.
And just the way the caterpillar is made into a beautiful butterfly being in this uncomfortable, dark and inactive place, you and I are best prepared for the very purpose of our lives being in the Chrysalis.
Do you find yourself stuck in the chrysalis?
I don’t know which metamorphosis stage you are in at present. If you have got your wings, praise God! but if you find yourself stuck in the Chrysalis, the place where you feel nothing is happening, where you see the darkness of your pain and hardships, where you feel like you are falling apart each day and where everything feels so stuck, dead and inactive, I want to encourage you to trust the process, surrender to it, embrace it and wait until the process works its best, re-creating you into everything you are meant to be, giving you the glorious wings of your purpose and reflecting the majesty of your Heavenly Father in and through your life.
And no matter how your chrysalis feels to you, remember it will always be covered with the golden threads of strength, assurance, love and grace of your Master Designer. He will be watching you throughout the process and trusting His ways, His plans and His heart of love in the midst of your chrysalis will be the ultimate way to your metamorphosis.
“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 5:3-5
Most new things in his life are very stressful for him but this camp however was not. My 8 years old son, Asher, joined a three days kids’ camp online and seemed really excited about it. To my amazement, he did participate in it very well. There were action songs, games and Bible-based activities which he did with my help and actively involved himself in learning.
Whenever the winners’ names were announced, he waited with hope that his name would be called out too. Each time they announced the winners’ names he would turn to me and ask in excitement, “Mummy, will they choose me?” Consequently, in three of the activities he participated, his name wasn’t in the winners’ list. Seeing his gloomy face for not being chosen, I would assure him that among two hundred participants, they chose only the first 10 or 20 kids, you see the rest of the other kids aren’t winners too. But he was too determined and hopeful to be chosen.
Have you ever felt unqualified for certain tasks which you have been appointed for or certain responsibilities which you ought to carry or certain roles you are expected to fulfil in your life?
I am not talking about educational qualifications but about feelings like when you thought to yourself “I am a misfit”, “I am not enough”, “someone does it better than me” or “I don’t have the right skills set” or maybe “I don’t have what it takes”. Such thoughts probably have rattled your mind especially when you failed to do certain jobs perfectly.
I have also been feeling unqualified lately and the feelings are intense. I feel unqualified when I hit the publish button on my site to share my blog post. Comparing my writings with other wonderful bloggers and their crafting of words and the consistency they have in posting blog after blog every week, I wonder if “I am a misfit” in this brilliant world of prolific writers.
I feel unqualified when I teach Asher all his subjects and often get stuck at some of the lessons which I find tough for me to teach him. I doubt if I am the right teacher for him. I sometimes feel “I am not enough” and wish that he could be accepted in school and taught by well-qualified teachers.
I feel unqualified being a mother to my daughter. I do love her, and do everything to make her feel at ease but I still see her with no milestones and struggling hard even to sip water from a spoon. I feel “not the right mother to her” as my efforts, prayers, and tears aren’t gaining the desired outcomes for her.
In the midst of all my feelings of being unqualified, I am reminded of a person from the Bible who felt unqualified too. When God told Moses that He was sending him to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of the Egypt, Moses’s answer clearly revealed that he felt totally unqualified for the task.
“But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11
I love the way God gently assured him.
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” Exodus 3:12
God promised Moses that He was with him. All Moses had to do was to show up, be available and trust God’s power instead of worrying about his ability of being the qualified candidate. We all know the remarkable outcome of Moses showing up and making himself available for the task: He was able to take the Israelites from Egypt with a magnificent victory.
And the same God assures us today with the same promise He made to Moses.
As I ponder on the beauty of God’s promise, I realize that it doesn’t matter how qualified I feel or don’t feel for the tasks which God has entrusted to me, because it’s not about my qualification but His strength which will sustain me at the end of the day. All I need to do is to show up, keep sharing my words with the world, be consistent in teaching my son, be there for my daughter and trust God with the rest.
Maybe like me you too have felt unqualified. Maybe it’s in your marriage, in your parenting journey, in your spiritual walk with God, in your workplace, in your attempts to reach your dreams or acquire new skill, or maybe in certain responsibilities which seem bigger than you.
Showing up may seem a painful process, feelings of inadequacy maybe real, the road you walk on may seems unending and the journey may feel tiring and challenging every single day. But let your heart be encouraged with the this beautiful truth that you aren’t alone. It’s not you who decides your ability but it’s Him who believes in you. And being unqualified will only show His power more and more through your life. God promises you that He is with you. Will you keep showing up and trust Him with the rest?
A few days back, I was preparing to speak in a children’s Bible class. The story I chose was a fictional one but it had a beautiful message to be given at the end. Since the meeting was held through a Zoom call, I decided to show the visuals along with the story and a craft activity for the children to comprehend.
It was a story about three trees and their dreams. The first tree wanted to be a treasure chest and have all the precious gems, gold and silver kept inside it. The second tree wanted to be a mighty ship and wished to have mighty kings travel in it across the sea. The third tree wanted to grow to be the tallest tree in the forest. It wanted people to look up to its branches and think about God.
It feels like our fast paced life has suddenly come to a halt. Just a month back, every one of us was engaged with our daily life, work, travels, plans and schedules just to find out this month, that nothing seems to be working the way we were anticipating. The rapidly spreading coronavirus has made the whole world get reversed. And for most of us, it’s getting a bit challenging to adopt to this new normal life with all peace and ease. The lock downs, the social distancing and the precautions we need to take to avoid the spread of the virus feel a very hard task and mostly inconvenient with each passing day. All of us long to return to our normal lives as soon as possible.
It’s so much of an unknown season where none of us can predict what the future holds. The news channels and social media are filled with rising numbers of confirmed cases and deaths. There is still no vaccine available for the virus. The poor people of our country are suffering the most. Our kids are trapped between four walls. There are predictions of community spread, more deaths and more chaos we will face due to the effects of this virus in the coming days. It feels so much like we are standing in the in –between. In between the life which was moving smoothly before the pandemic hit and the life which we will have after the pandemic gets under control.
The predictable In –between will feel easy, thrilled and promising when we know with certainty what the future holds, when we know the better outcome that awaits. But how should we respond to the in – between which has got no known outcome, favorable possibilities or a slight glimpse of a healthy environment in future? How should we live in this season of turmoil where there is a big question mark regarding our health, our finances, the safety of our beloved ones and the well-being of the entire nation? How should we respond in this in –between season of uncertainty?………
Jesus’s disciples felt the same way after Jesus’s death. He was mocked, lashed, ripped of His clothes, crowned of thorns and nailed cruelly on the cross. Their Messiah was taken away from them. The miracle maker Himself was laying behind the closed tomb. The hope giver Himself was dead. There was grief all over Jerusalem because the one who came to save them was crucified. Weeping, uncertainties, disappointments and heartaches could be felt all over the place as Jesus was crucified.
“It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.John 19:30
They were in between the time of Jesus’s death and the day of His resurrection. Life felt measurable. Grief was crushing their heart, distress was filling their minds and no one knew what the future held. No one knew how to respond during this in between season. All they had was His promise of resurrection to cling on until they could see Him face to face.
“When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief”. Matthew 17:22-23
Still this was a very painful time for most of them as they couldn’t believe that He would be raised to life. They couldn’t see the life beyond His death. As they had no idea how the resurrection would take place. Probably their human minds couldn’t imagine a dead person raising up to life. They probably felt lonely and uncertain in this time of grief as Jesus laid in the tomb.
Yet the promise keeper, the miracle maker, the hope giver, the Savior of the world, rose fulfilling the promise He made with them. He had conquered the darkness of death and risen to life. Their Messiah appeared to them giving them a new hope and a promising future.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.” Mark 16:6
For us, Good Friday is just over and we wait for Easter Sunday to be celebrated. In our churches since our childhood, we know that we are to remember Christ’s passion & sacrifice on the day of Good Friday and to celebrate His resurrection on Easter Sunday. But no one tells us what should be done on Saturday – the in between season of grief & joy. No sermon is preached on how to survive the day between death and the resurrection.
The Saturday (the in –between season that we are in today) should be the hope day🙂
……..We hope for a better tomorrow as we know that the ultimate tomorrow, the hope of abundant life, healing and restoration is made possible by Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross. We believe that God is in control of the world He created. We hope that He has plans for our future and the in –between season will not last forever. We hope that He will never forsake us in the valleys of death. We hope that light will surely shine through darkness. And when our hope is in His promises, His power and His sovereignty, it gives us mental and emotional strength to get through the in –between season amidst all the fears and uncertain situations around us.
So, things are challenging definitely, but let’s savor His hope and cling to His promise of resurrection; resurrection from the uncertainties, from fear, from this hard in –between season and from the deadly virus which is spreading over the world till we get to the other side – to our normal and smooth going life again, continually abiding in His grace…
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast”. 1 Peter 5:10