Trial by Fire: Embracing the Refining Process

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Something I never expected before I was a mom, was how much my children would bring out the worst in me.

There are days where my responses and my choices are far from grace-filled and it makes me see just how much ugliness my flesh clings to.

Especially when my children were really young, this gave me a lot of guilt. I would wonder what was wrong with me. Did the Lord make a mistake in blessing me with children when there were times I failed so miserably? But at some point I had a revelation. This is exactly WHY God gave me children, to refine me.

The Bible mentions the gold-refining process a number of times in relation to God’s dealings with us, and with our faith. I’d always heard the verses about being "refined by fire" and "made into pure gold", but it wasn’t until I began to actually study the ancient processes the Egyptians used, that I began to truly understand how fitting this analogy is.

Gold refining has been around for thousands of years. The Egyptians were well known for developing the processes for purifying gold and creating intricate and extravagant gold jewelry.

Diodorus Siculous, a Greek historian who lived in the century before Jesus, described the process that the Egyptians used in great detail. There were a number of steps to be taken in order to purify the gold for use.

First the gold had to be found and removed from the earth, either mined from the ground or collected from alluvial deposits in riverbeds. Then the sand and dirt was washed away and the more dense gold particles are left behind.

The next step is crushing, to break down the particles. Then, and this may be the step we are most familiar with, the gold is burned to remove the “dross” or the waste materials. Diodorus said this process took five days.

The gold was placed inside a clay vessel, a number of different materials were added to help the process and then the vessel was sealed and placed inside the fire for five days, when the vessel finally stopped fuming.

When the vessel was opened, the gold had been purified as much as the ancients could possibly accomplish, without modern science and chemical interventions. Modern scientists have examined this process and found that this ancient process raised the gold content to around 93 percent. That is nearly pure gold!

So, let’s bring that metaphor back around.

God finds us, in the dirt and muck (Psalm 40:2). He washes us with Living Water, that which can only be found through Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:26). Then we must be refined further by testing (James 1:2-4), which, in this world feels sometimes like being crushed and bruised. Breaking free from fleshy desires is a rough process, it hurts, it wounds, it feels a bit like being crushed. But this time is when we are being broken down until we are ready to be molded into his image.

Then comes the tough part. We are put inside the fire (1 Peter 1:7). Sometimes this process can take a long, long time. Honestly, I think that this process lasts for the rest of our lives—although there are times the fire seems a little hotter than others.

But followers of Jesus are not called to be cool and comfortable. We are not called to live an easy life where everything goes our way. We are called to suffer. We are called to lay down our lives and pick up the Cross.

We are put into the fire every time we have friction with our children, friction with our spouses, friction with the world around us. And each of these instances, the hard times, the hurts, the rejection, the pain… all of this is meant to purify us more.

In times of trial, we must cling to the promises about this process. Instead of fleeing the fire, or being angry with God, we must wrap our arms around the One who promises that the scorching heat is for our good. It is to make us into something new. To burn away the desires of our sinful flesh and to purify us.

When our Messiah comes back and breaks the seal on the “molds” of our human bodies, and raises us to new life, we will be pure gold, formed in his image and ready to be used for his glory in Eternity.

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