“See I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tested you in the furnace of adversity.”

Isaiah 48:10

By: M. Charlotte Oliver

I almost always welcome moving and meaningful conversations about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Last week I had one of these type of conversations with my close friend.  I am thankful she took the time to listen to my concerns, joys, and hopes. After our chat, I went to the kitchen, and made a cup of tea. While doing so I thought of my body and mind and offered God thankfulness for them. I also thanked Him for giving me the sty of anxiousness I felt that day. Like the annoying one in the eye, which scratches at the core of sight. That pulls at me…

Though I could not point to the root cause of this anxiousness, I did not feel like myself. I’d hope that drinking a warm cup of tea would help. But it didn’t. Stretch exercises did not do the trick either. What are these things I feel? I asked myself. Why do I feel so out of sorts filled with deep melancholy? I deliberated. I tell you, as I compose this note to you, just thinking of me in that place causes some filtered emotions to return. They return not to linger, but what I think come to serve as a memento.

In a sermon delivered on August 12th, 1855, C.H. Spurgeon shared “When travelling through the country, you have often noticed that in different spots the old rocks peep out from under the soil, as if they would let us know what earth’s bones are made of, and what are the solid foundations of this globe. So in searching through the Scriptures you will find here instruction, here admonition, here rebuke, and here comfort, but very frequently you will discover the old doctrines like old rocks rising amid other matters; and when you little expect it you will find election, redemption, justification, effectual calling, final perseverance or covenant security introduced, just to let us see what the solid foundations of the gospel are, and what are those deep and mysterious truths on which the entire gospel system must rest.” (Spurgeon.org)

Since I was still perplexed due to my localized and bizarre uneasiness last week, I reread this sermon over the weekend. In the chosen Bible verse for this week’s reflection, I believe God speaks to me. He did not say “I have chosen all!” In this verse, God says you. In addition, as Spurgeon suggested, there may be some, not chosen at all. Not chosen from the furnace of adversity, must seem a great thing to some. But is it really? Do the unchosen know of the Gospel? Can they bend during challenging times? Are they willing to be reshaped and to rethink what is known, that which has been taught? These are questions I ask myself. I sometimes ask of myself.

Troubles come with knowing and living the teachings of the Gospel, and they come without it. Trouble will always come! Some chosen for the furnace are those faced with personal trials or disobedience, and with God’s mercies, are spared. Total dependency on Him alone eases emotional heat, the confusions, loss, sadness, anxious feelings, loneliness, and triggers of misunderstandings. All this, discussed so eloquently in the use of Isaiah the chosen prophet, who stated God’s words with remarkable zeal.

In the last year, even in troubled times, I have encountered the softness of life more so than I have ever done before. In the noticing, the reading and listening to God’s words, the fertilizing of my soul’s ground, in planting the seeds, and the watering of this ground. In my daughter’s marriage. In observations, in deep care for the people in my life, the fresh flowers at the grocery store, the nourishing foods provided to me, my ability to give on the budget God affords me. In slow walks on frozen ground, the sight of my dogs when they breathe in the fresh air after a snowstorm. In the books I read, the smell of soap when mixed with water, the thriving plants in my occasional cold but sunny basement. The warm blankets of comfort on this brisk Spring morning. 

This softness I speak of, only comes to me through the complete reliance of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ means to me. The softness of His will. And, those that come after a trip to furnace. 

This softness returned to me and the anxiety I experienced last week, is no longer. Although in the future I may encounter similar feelings, the thing is, I am certain of where I should go for refreshment. In life, visits to the furnace is a given. Yet, for me, complete trust in God and His continuous forgiveness extinguishes the burn, hurt or pain. In his sermon, Spurgeon continued to say, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Think not, then, when you are in trouble that God has cast you off. Think he has cast you off if you never have any trials and troubles, but when in the furnace, say, “Did he not tell me this beforehand?” Of course, God has (Ezekiel 22:17-18).

In the fire I am safe. Out of the fire I am secure. The furnace delivers validation. It is light to take away the darkness. It is beliefs, covenants, and obedience. It is a place for life’s trials and tribulations. It molds me into shape. My feet must be like fine brass if they burn in the furnace (Revelation 1:15). Brass as my strength, who with Christ by my side, I can withstand it all. The ashes of the furnace bring me peace, which enhances the softness of my life. Rocks causing stumble, are strengthening constructs of the deep foundations of the Gospel’s truth. The bones of its structure! What my deeply Christ-depending life is made of. Those of the Prince of Peace! Yes, those of the Prince who always brings me peace.