In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV)
It has been three months since my time as a pastor of a local church whom I loved has ended. It has been quite a trial, as work is hard to find and bills still need to be paid. Applying for dozens, even hundreds of jobs has resulted in just as many rejection notices. Perhaps the deepest struggle that I faced personally is wondering how God’s calling on my life, which has always been a certainty, now fits in this next chapter of my journey. What I devoted my life to seems to now be gone, although the One I devoted my life to remains. I have lots of questions and tons of self-doubt, but complete confidence in my Gracious God.
Peter mentions that the trials we face purify our faith as fire purifies gold. When gold is refined, the fire turns it to a molten state. In this liquid form, the impurities that were hiding in the solid gold rise to the surface. In the purification process, while the gold beneath the surface is made more pure and more beautiful, if one looks at the bubbling pot the first thing they see is the impure scum on the top. When God refines us, there are times when what you see in your life is rather ugly, but be patient, God is making your faith even more pure!
This has been the story of my life these past months. What has risen to the surface is often anger and despair that literally takes my breath away. Yet, I know that what is coming out of the refining process is pure and beautiful and will glorify my Maker. Yet, when I see the scum rise to the surface of my heart, I often grieve, “That ugliness was in me?”
Yet, there has been another observation that I made during this time. The flames that made my own faith molten have been hot enough and high enough to reach out to people around me and revealed some things in their hearts, also. I have been amazed at the people that I served that said absolutely nothing to me over these months, even remaining completely silent on my last Sunday at my fellowship. I have seen gossip about me and my family rise to the surface and pride and pettiness, once hidden behind a religious veneer, stare me right in the face. It has been heartbreaking.
But that heartache is nothing compared to the hidden beauty of others that is becoming clear. Current friends and friends from decades and decades ago have truly been Jesus to me. Their incredible generosity, encouragement and support have been what Jesus has used to get me out of bed every morning. People that I talked to yesterday and people I haven’t talked to in thirty-five years have spoken just the words that I needed to hear. It is amazing to see whom God is using as His messengers.
So, the fire has been hot. My heart has been humbled. I have been saddened and amazed by the response of others. And through it all, I know my gracious Lord continues to purify my faith for His glory.