Some thoughts on trials

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Finals ended last week. I'm already having the usual recurring post-exam nightmares about failing or forgetting to come; those usually last until September. Not fun. But I guess it's nice to have something to keep me on my toes over the summer, right?

I haven't gotten many of my marks back yet, but considering what was going on in my life during that month, I think I did pretty well. It was a pretty crazy time for me... if you follow my tweets, you'll know that my family went through a crisis of sorts at the start of April. It didn't involve me per se, but watching the situation unfold truly felt like the whole world was crashing down around me. I didn't stop crying for days. And even after things got better, I didn't really recover from the experience for a few weeks... I stayed inside my self-pity, withdrew from my family, and recoiled from any sign of returning normalcy. How could things ever be normal again? I think, sometimes, it's harder to accept that a trial has passed than it is to go through the trial itself. Receiving blessings after your world turns upside down takes trust and humility.

Nevertheless, right now, I'm grateful I went through that because, as clich├ęd as it sounds, I learned some important lessons along the way. Last weekend, someone at church shared a story he'd read on an email forward. Now I'm not generally a fan of forwards, but hearing this story gave me goosebumps. I know it's not completely accurate, but it's still a beautiful parable...

Malachi 3:3 says: 'He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.' This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study, and one of them decided to call up a silversmith and make 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 in order 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 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.'

Wasn't that a brilliant way of putting it? I mean, I knew that suffering conforms us to the character of Jesus, but somehow this story made that truth come to life, and cut straight through my self-pity. I'm not called to try and make things better in a situation over which I have no control; I am called to reflect God. And this trial wasn't a matter of him forsaking me; it was proof that he had a plan for me and needed to clear away the dross obstructing that plan. It was a painful but vital prelude to discovering more of his nature in me. It was an opportunity to yield to his reflection—to identify with him, suffering and all.

And it was a reflection of his goodness. That's something I've had to grapple with over the past few weeks, the idea that God is good when bad things happen. I mean, I know it. But it's only recently that I've begun to really know it. Jamie said it much better than I can...

...Thanks to a financial gift from our home church, and a few more from [readers], the cost of the trip, engine, and labor was covered to within a few dollars of our actual expenses. Pretty cool, huh?

This is the part where I'm supposed to say, "God is good".

Which He is. But. He was also good when our the car died on the side of the road under the blazing Nicaraguan sun. He is good when the house burns to the ground, and He is good when the accident is terrible, even if it happens to me. He is good when the report says "cancer". God's goodness simply can't be measured by what my stupid, human heart deems satisfactory. So I guess what I'm getting at is that we got our car back and we can still afford to eat [...] and, of course, that God is good. Just like always.

A-men. And the post couldn't have come at a better time. The next day, I went to church, heard that silversmith story, admitted my need, had a few people pray for me and for the situation (let me tell you, that is one of the most powerful things ever), and I was finally ready to move past the pain of the fire and to enjoy the greater fullness of God that had resulted from it. Right now, for instance, I'm exploring one lesson I learned from the experience, best encapsulated in this tweet that I wrote in the midst of the situation...

It's not often that I felt so much grief over a situation that I just wanted to keel over from the emotional pain... that tweet was written on one of the few days I ever experienced that kind of pain. And it was hard. Yet that's just a fragment of the grief Jesus willingly entered into as he took the punishment for us. It's just a shadow of Gethsemane. It's just a small part of what the Perfect One felt while walking this broken, unbelieving earth.

So I've been learning to feel God's kind of sorrow for the world—and I don't mean 'sorrow' in the despairing sense. I'm talking about becoming burdened with, rather than calloused towards, the needs and concerns of others, and in the process, to see them a bit more like God sees them. To 'have a heart for' the world; to invest in their situations and empathize with their suffering. I guess, in a way, my own pain made me more sensitive to the pain of others. It's been a huge perspective shift and I'm still adjusting to it... but I can see that it sure made the time in the fire worth it.

Have you gone through a trial recently? What have you learned from it? How can I pray for you?

(And while I'm at it, I want to throw out a huge thank you to everyone who put up with my angsty tweets and prayed for that situation to get better. Love you guys).

2 comments:

Lucy said...

Ahh so good! Thank you for sharing :)

Oksana said...

Thank you for reading, Lucy! Glad you liked it. :)


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I'm Oksana—Communication major, shutterbug, occasional blogger, incessant doodler, graphic design geek, and writer of sentimental prose. I am quite content to spend an afternoon with a pencil, a few blank Moleskine pages, and a playlist of indie folk. I love musical theatre, black-&-white movies, and Eastern European illustration. Conversations with strangers make my day. When it rains, I make a beeline for my mug of green tea and stack of 19th-century fiction. I'm vegetarian about 98% of the time. I'm extremely awkward and rather nerdy. I love the sea. My name means 'hosanna' and I'm having the time of my life living to praise the One who set me free.

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