Thanksgiving is a time of reflection. Normally, we are grateful for the good things in life. But what about the bad things. How and why should we be thankful for difficulties? Find out on this episode.
From my book, “Refined – Turning Pain into Purpose.”
“Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.” Jonah 1:7
“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” – Brian Tracy
The furnace sounds like a jet engine. It roars; it hisses, waiting to be fed; eager to consume anything that it is given. And it will. Linger too long in the furnace and even the Crucible meets a cruel end which enlightens an ironic purpose of the Crucible.
Without the Crucible, the metal is doomed. Left to fight the furnace on its own, the silver and gold would be liquefied into a useless pile of slag. But within the Crucible, the Refiner can control the amount and intensity of the heat that the metal experiences. Albeit a cruel and violent tool, the Crucible protects the metal from certain uselessness if not obliteration.
Reminds me of Jonah. You know the story. God asked Jonah to deliver a message to the evil people of Nineveh – a message revealing their sin and calling them to repentance. Jonah gave in to his fear, hoped on a ship and sailed in the opposite direction of that wretched city. God sent a storm to rock the boat and, fearing for their lives, the others through Jonah in the waters, thinking it was his fault. The bible then says that the Lord provided a great fish or a whale to swallow Jonah (Jonah 1:7). Did you catch that? God provided a whale. When I provide someone with something it is to help them out in some way. God provided this whale to help Jonah and not to harm him.
Without the whale, Jonah would have certainly drowned. The storm waves would have kept him under and the currents would have brought Johan to his doom. But God’s plans rule. There is nothing we can do to stop them. So God used a creature of nature to swallow Jonah to protect him from certain death. I don’t think Jonah saw it that way but nevertheless, the truth that is revealed is this; that which was intended for harm ultimately was provided for good.
As difficult as it may seem right now, the pain you’re experiencing now might be keeping you from a worst disaster down the road. God might be setting up a roadblock in your life because the path you want to go down leads to a cliff. It reminds me of when my son’s frisbee went out into the street. He immediately ran after it, not thinking, not looking and not seeing the car that was motoring his way. I happened to be standing by the street and as he ran by, I abruptly grabbed his little arm, stopping him mid-stride. When it was all said and done he walked away with a bruised arm from my grip but he still walked away. My firm but hurtful grip protected him from meeting face-to-grill with a 4,000-pound car.
The concept of God hurting us to protect us is a difficult one to grasp. In fact, this is a common objection to faith for people I speak with. Usually, the objection begins, “If God were so good and loving how could He let (fill in the blank) happen!” Sometimes I have an answer, especially if it is a few months down the road from the incident. Many times, I’m left to say “I don’t know, but let me tell you what I do know.” Then I speak about a God who is always in control and has a good purpose in mind even though we might not know what it is right now. And that is where trust comes in.
Robin’s young daughter, Haley was to undergo intensive brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. The doctors told her that they the chances of survival were small and that she’d better be prepared for the possibility of Haley not to come out of the surgery. Immediately, Robin called on people to pray for her little girl.
A few days before the surgery, Robin sent out this prayer email:
I put two tired little girls to bed last night at 7:45. I had ‘let’ my boy go play with his friends at the auto show. So I found myself alone in a quiet house. As I often feel like doing after the girls are sound asleep and – if I’m not also wiped out next to one or both of them – I felt like getting comfortable and sharing some time with a friend. I wasn’t sure which I felt like doing but a few things came to mind. I could read a chapter in a book I have entitled “Why bad things happen to good people”, I could open up the Bible to any page and see what was in store for me that evening, or I could work on a study I’d been involved with before Haley’s diagnoses but which I have since been neglecting. I felt pulled toward the study guide.
So I got snuggled into bed, set my Bible beside me, and opened the workbook on my lap. I started reading. The words jumped off the page because it seemed to apply to our family’s current situation. Then I got to a page with a bold title. It read ‘Carrie’s Cancer’ … Could I really go on? Did I want to continue? I have a tendency to run from difficult situations. The urge was strong. But I took a deep breath and kept going. The author’s daughter had an experience with cancer when she was young. He mentioned a passage in scripture that had spoken to their family. It was John 11:4 when Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
I felt a mixture of hope and despair,. In a flash, I saw that this could mean two things. Either God is telling me that Haley will not die and that God’s using this trial in her life to renew His presence in your lives; or that even though she dies here on earth, she’ll live on eternally in Heaven, safe and sound and incredibly loved by the Father. Either way, they both bring me comfort. I selfishly don’t want to lose her, but I think God wants us all to know that she’s guarded and will be ok. He has her. Whether He lets her live here with us or takes her with Him, He has her. Who better to take care of that baby?!
After reading John 11:4, another verse popped into my head, Joshua 1:9 “…be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” And then I flipped back a page and read Joshua 1:5 “…I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I didn’t read each word to find these passages. They leaped out at me.
Because of what it says in John 11:4, “…so that God’s Son may be glorified through it,” I am sharing this experience with you. I’m hoping it will be of some encouragement to all of you who love Haley and have been praying for her. She’s going to be ok. No matter what.
There are so many tragic things happening every second of every day all around this world. There are troops suffering and dying in the cold mountains away from their homes, there are people diagnosed and dying of terminal illnesses, there are unspeakable things happening in individual homes, there are lonely and desperate people crying out in despair to God. It was an overwhelming and depressing revelation. And I wonder if there were an equal number of people praising God, lifting up His name, thanking Him. I hoped so. Before you pray for our situation, please first thank God for all the wonderful things He’s done. Whatever that is in your lives. Please, before you pray for Haley, please remember to give God praise.
God’s at work. We’re not going through this alone. And there’s a reason for this. I once wrote down what I feel is my life’s motto: “Sometimes I’ve preferred ignorance over knowledge because I often prefer bliss over chaos.” It fits me so well. I’m neither proud nor ashamed of it. Just accepting of it. A couple of months ago, I read in the Bible somewhere that, if we ask for wisdom, we’d better be prepared to handle it. I’d been asking for wisdom and clarity up until that point. Then I took a step back. I’m not so sure I want to or have to know what God’s up to. Not right now. Maybe I’ll just let Him take control. It takes an incredible weight off my shoulders.
Robin’s faith in the Lord strengthened her for the upcoming trial. She trusted that God would protect Haley, even if it meant bringing her to heaven. She knew that the next weeks, months and years were going to be difficult and she was surrendered.
Reminds me of the Biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Here were three young lads, captured by the horrid King Nebuchadnezzar and forced into slavery. When the king demanded that everyone bow down and worship an image of his god, the three boys refused. They were followers of the Lord. They were devoted to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and they were ready for any consequence that the king might impose on them for their disobedience.
Angered, the king ordered that they are thrown into a raging hot furnace. But when the king looked into the flames, Shadrach Meshach, and Abednego were walking around, unbound and unharmed. They had been protected from the blaze of the furnace. Not only that, but an angel was accompanying them. God was in control. He protected them in the fire and even the King was amazed.
There are other stories in the bible of God’s protection. Moses leading the Israelites and being guided by God’s pillar of clouds by day and protected by His pillar of fire at night. (Isn’t it interesting that God used FIRE to protect them). Daniel in the Lion’s Den. The disciples in the raging storm. Paul escaping from angry crowds. And all of these accounts teach the same lessons – God is in control and we can be grateful that He turns pain into purpose.
Right now, you or someone you cherish may be facing a life-threatening situation. Cancer that was diagnosed in late stages. An accident that leaves you hospitalized. A pregnancy that is deteriorating the health of both mother and child. Whatever the alarm, God know’s how much heat it takes to accomplish His purpose and He knows how little strength you have left.
For some reason, the fire through which you are walking is perfectly managed by God. He knows your strength limit. Ironic isn’t it. When you feel at your weakest, that is actually a sign of God’s strength.
No matter how difficult the Crucible of our loss has been, my Refiner is still in control. No matter how brutal, ruthless or slow, the Crucible is an agonizing gift that is melting, molding and making me into something that my Refiner can really use.
From my book, “Refined – Turning Pain into Purpose.”