Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Balm for the Refiner's Fire

This story, related to Malachi 3:3 (the "refiner's fire scripture), comes from a comment on THIS blog. I heard it once before and liked it but never saw it in writing until now. Here it is:

"Malachi 3:3 puzzled some women in a Bible study class, and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study. That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest so so as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: 'He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.' She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, 'How do you know when the silver is fully refined?' He smiled at her and answered, 'Oh, that's easy––when I see my image in it.' If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you."

It's good to be reminded not only that the Lord has a plan for us, custom-tailored to our needs, but that He holds and watches over us as He puts that plan into action. I'm grateful to understand just how well He knows and loves us.

Many people are struggling through difficult times just now, as the subject matter addressed earlier this month in various general conference talks of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints suggests. I am continually grateful for the wisdom and inspiration available to all of us who seek answers in this life. These answers, confirmed and magnified by personal prayer, enable us to meet our necessary struggles with the hope and faith that can lift us above our own capacities to endure. Because of the gospel of Jesus Christ we "are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed" (2 Cor. 4:8-9). Or at least we don't have to be. Why? Not because of ourselves, that's for sure. Our ability to move forward with strength and courage rests in the Lord. When Paul prayed to have a "thorn in the flesh" removed, Christ responded: "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Paul then went on to say, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasures in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Cor. 9-10). (I'm not even close to Paul's standard of "taking pleasure in infirmities"...but I suspect I'll get my share of opportunities to work on that!)

Once, when I was chronically ill and couldn't seem to find my way out of the despair I was feeling, I came upon Philippians 4:11-13. I made a note in the margin of my scriptures that said, "my life's lesson, 2/5/91." The instruction I received has stayed with me ever since. Here's what the amazing apostle Paul had to say on that occasion: "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound, and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

Apparently, you and I have signed on for the FULL life experience, and boy, are we gonna get it. Thankfully, we will never have to go through it alone. Today I just wanted to express my gratitude for that truth...and for the One whose truth it is.


Lisa Loo said...

I LOVE the refining silver story--I have never thought about that scripture with enough interest to check taht out. LOVE IT. Thank you so much for taking the time to share!

Heather Anderson said...

I have heard this before without the image part which is a VERY important and cool part... I like it.

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