Gold, in its natural state, lacks purity and value. It must be melted in a furnace in order for the impurities that are embedded inside to move upwards and eventually skimmed off. Intense heat is necessary. Without it, the gold could not shine beautifully, nor could it be shaped into the intended image.
Similarly, there is a refining and a testing that goes on in God’s people. It is painful indeed, yet necessary in order to remove hindrances and bring forth Christ’s nature in us. Job was one man who went through the fire. Heartache, physical pain and material losses were his furnace of affliction. They surrounded and consumed him as fire does anything in its path. He was brought low both physically and in prominence. He went from having greatnesses to having nothing at all. All that seemed good in Job’s life was—all at once— stripped from him. God allowed satan to cause such pain, but not without restriction. Satan had no more power over Job than what God allowed. Although it seemed Job’s life was in complete chaos, God still had everything under control. All eyes were on Job to see if the evil spoken against him, by satan, were true. Would he curse God for allowing such sorrow? On the contrary, he humbled himself and graciously accepted God’s will for his life, “Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshipped” (1:20). He knew that nothing could happen in his life that God did not allow for a purpose—good or bad. Later Job stated, “When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (23:10). And that he did! His severe testing revealed his devotion to his God regardless of the circumstances.
Joseph was another man who melted in a furnace and came out as gold. He was despised by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused and thrown into prison. His furnace seemed to get hotter as the years went by. The time he spent as a slave and imprisoned didn’t make sense—at least from Joseph’s view. He had been given two dreams, as a boy, about a future rise to power; and yet now he was as low as he could get. How could this be part of God’s plan? Regardless, God was still sovereign over Joseph’s life. When Joseph finally emerged from his furnace, he understood that the adversity in his life was ordained by God alone, and henceforth replied to his brothers, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). Every part of Joseph’s journey was to lead up to God’s purpose.
Every one of us, who belong to God, will go through our own set of furnace experiences. Many people think God would never allow bad things to happen to them. When bad things do happen, they wonder where God is. Then they doubt His love for them. We’ve been taught that God is love and therefore only material, physical and uplifting blessings would ever be ordained by Him and anything adverse is not. Christianity is not about living the “good” life here on earth. In fact, it is about denying ourselves and taking up our crosses daily to follow Christ (Matthew 16:24). Living a life that denies the very things our flesh takes pleasure in is not pleasant at all. Those who choose to follow Christ must live a life of sacrifice. As God’s children, our lives are not our own anymore. Everything we do, say and think should be for the glory of our God.
God uses difficulties to purge our lives. While it is painful at the moment and feels like God is nowhere in sight, He is. When we get to the place that we think we cannot go on much longer that is when the deepest work is being done; the deeper the purging, the more painful it will be. We must know that the purging of our souls is ordained by God. It is not there to destroy, but rather to produce God’s righteousness in us. It’s only during the lowest points in our lives that we truly come to understand our dependence in God.
The furnace that we each receive will bring out from our hearts 1 of 2 responses: Bitterness towards God for allowing such pain, or deeper devotion to Him. Closer or further away will be the end result to our furnace experience. It brings to the surface what is hidden in our hearts.
Our lives on earth are temporal. Whatever we suffer here will end. It will not last forever. Paul reminds us of this “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Compared to what the outcome will bring, our afflictions are light. They last for only a “moment” when compared to eternity. We must shift our eyes from what we see to what we do not see. What we see will end, but what we cannot see lasts forever. In other words, the glory that will be revealed in our lives due to our afflictions will be everlasting. We are to faithfully trust that God knows best, even when it is painful.
You may be in the furnace right now. You may not understand what is going on. You may even feel like you’ll be consumed if God doesn’t bring you out. Nevertheless, take it with patience and endurance. Know that whatever is taking place is for your good. We only see the now, but God sees the whole picture. He will not leave you as you are, for he is the potter and we the clay. He is working with you to change you into the image of His Son. The reason for your affliction may never be revealed in this life. But in the end, eternity will reveal the everlasting fruit of it.