“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 at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 1:6-7)
While we are withering within the belly of a fiery blaze it is particularly difficult to visualize what might possibly be formed by the intensity of the heat. With the flames melting our core and the temperature rising against us, survival seems improbable. What earthly good could come from languishing in such an undesirable furnace?
When the bitter cup is pressed against our lip and the unwelcome liquid forced inside, we instinctively recoil at the distasteful content. Afterward, with the empty cup in hand, we are hard pressed to believe that the wretched taste will ever be expunged. Why were we ever asked to swallow such a draught? Will anything ever be sweet again?
But Jesus is sole commander of firestorms and traumas of one kind and another. They do not dictate the outcome; he does. He masterfully transforms our shape with fuel from the furnace. In his compassionate hands, fire fuses into a purifying tool. It cannot destroy or deform. Bitter juices will mark us forever with their unmistakable flavor, but our God will transform their poison into potions that he engineers for his noble purposes.
Within the confines of his sacred hands he crafts heartache into vessels of honor that he fills to overflowing with himself. He is marking us with his fingerprints. He is bending close, cradling us to his heart, and in the process designing us to be people of compassion who will willingly strap on the cares of others. He engraves himself on us in the cruel seasons. Later, we become his ambassadors who extend gracious mercy to other troubled souls.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).