A number of years ago my husband spoke at a medical conference in Barcelona, Spain. We both fell in love with this beautiful city, its people, its culture, and (of course) its cuisine. We spent many enjoyable and informative hours exploring it all. We were enthralled by everything we saw, but there was one stop we both found to be exceptionally fascinating – the glass-blower’s shop.
We watched as the master glass-blower took a shapeless, ordinary-looking piece of glass, subjected it to the intense heat of a fiery furnace, and transformed it into a beautiful work of art. As I watched I began to see God as the Master glass-blower and me as that shapeless blob of glass in desperate need of transformation.
Thinking about transformation led me to think about the various ways God uses to bring about change that reflects Him more clearly. Often, He speaks to us through His living Word, prayer, a powerful sermon, or an insightful book. Other times God molds us with counsel and encouragement of wise friends and family. As powerful and effective as these methods are, I have discovered there is one way that never fails to bring transformation – times of adversity.
We work hard to avoid seasons of testing and trials, but perhaps God is giving us an opportunity to become even more beautiful through the adversity. Like the master glass-blower, He knows we “ordinary blobs of glass” need to go through the fire so the Master can mold and make us into the beautiful work of art He designed us to be. Running from the pain of these experiences does not work. Since we can’t escape the fire of adversity, we need to decide how we are going to endure it.
My experience has taught me that obediently submitting to the Father’s loving hands as He purifies and molds us is key for transformation to occur. The choice of obedience gives us opportunity to experience God as our constant companion, our strength, our shield, our refuge, and our ever-present help in time of trouble. Even when we don’t “feel” His presence, we can rest in the promises that He will never leave or forsake us, that there is nothing that can separate us from His love. Adversity can be the driving force that compels us to embrace a deeper, more intimate relationship with God. The more intimate we are with Him, the more we become like Him. And the more we become like Him, the more beautiful we become – just like the glass when the glass-blower removes it from the fire.
So, what does obedient submission look like?
It is choosing to take every opportunity to stay close to God by being in His word, in prayer, in Bible study, in service, and in worship. It is remembering God’s past faithfulness and mercy and trusting he will continue to be faithful. It is humbly asking God, “What do you want me to learn?” It is persevering and waiting for God’s timing. It is learning to be content whatever the circumstances. It is choosing to focus on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable.
None of this is easy, but by the Spirit’s power it is doable. It is difficult to think of these times of intense pain as “good and perfect” gifts from God, but God has assured us in His word that “weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” The fiery furnace of adversity “burns off” sins, characteristics, and attitudes that are keeping us from being a more beautiful reflection of our loving Father and frees us to be more like Jesus.
So, while it is profoundly difficult to go through the fiery furnace of adversity, let’s welcome it because, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings becoming like him in his death…” Philippians 3:10.