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Taken through the Fire

A few weeks ago our pastor spoke on the topic of God sending the trials of life in order to refine us and bring us back to His.  I really didn’t know how to accept this message, as it is a hard one for me to swallow.  He took his message from Joel 2:21-27.

“Don’t be afraid, my people!  Be glad now and rejoice because the Lord has done great things.  Don’t be afraid, you animals of the field!  The pastures will soon be green.  The trees will again be filled with luscious fruit; fig trees and grapevines will flourish once more.  Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem!  Rejoice in the Lord your God!  For the rains he sends are an expression of his grace.  Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as the rains of spring.  The threshing floors will again be piled high with grain, and the presses will overflow with wine and olive oil.  The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost to the stripping locusts, the cutting locusts, the swarming locusts and the hopping locusts.  It was I who sent the great destroying army against you.  Once again you will have all the food you want and you will praise the LORD your God, who does these miracles for you.  Never again will my people be disgraced like this.  Then you will know that I am here among my people of Israel and that I alone am the Lord your God.  My people will never again be disgraced like this.”

In this passage God admits to sending the many swarms of locust to plague to land.  God also promises to replenish the land of all that has been taken from it.

Personally, I have a hard time with this passage.  Does that mean that all our trials are of God in order to refine us?  Or does God just use our trials in order to refine us?  As I like to say, “God can phoenix anything!”  No matter what horror you are going through, God can bring beauty from ashes.

The reason I have such a hard time with this concept is because of the personal trials I have been through.  I can not fathom that a God who loves me like a father would intentionally cause me such pain with depth of my depressions.  Why would He do this? — To bring me closer to Him? — Even if that was the end result, I can not fathom Him doing such things intentionally.

As a parent, I know my children are going to go through hard times that I am going to have to lead them through.  Although I try to teach them that the eye to the stove is hot, not to touch it, at some point I am going to have to nurse a burn.  But I would never force my children to touch the eye of the stove just so they would learn a lesson.  However, I would be there to make things better and to walk with them, should they decide to test the waters.  But I would never intentionally cause them pain.

In the story of Job, a man of utmost faith, has everything taken away from him.  In this story God and Satan have a conversation where God allows Satan to test Job.  Job 1:12 “All right, you may test him,”  The Lord said to Satan.  “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.”  So Satan left the Lord’s presence.”

Afterwards, Job looses everything including his home, servants, cattle and even his seven children.

I personally have always thought of God more in this sense:  that God does not stop things from happening, but later restores what was taken from us.  God allows things to happen and then uses it for His own purposes.

So, I am back to struggling with the passage in Joel.  Does God purposefully cause the refiners fire?  Or are our struggles just a result of us living in a fallen world to which there is pain and suffering?  I have always believed that God did not cause my pain, but gladly would he make Beauty from my ashes.  But maybe I am wrong about this.  Maybe we do have a God that puts us through the courses of life in order to bring us closer to Him — to make us wiser, more pure of heart.

What do you think?  Does God intentionally cause us grief in order to bring us closer?  Does He just make Beauty from our Ashes?  Does He, like in the story of Job, turn His back and let things happen and then use it for His own good?