Don’t you love a good fire? Fire is unlike anything else in our world. No matter how many fires you build, no matter how long you watch one, it never looks the same. We can’t stare into a fire five minutes without being hypnotized by its magic other-worldliness. We are fascinated by its mesmerizing beauty and terrified by its destructive power.
God’s power and beauty moves us in the same way. His name is HAKKODOSH, the HOLY ONE. He is without rival, unique and utterly perfect. He thoroughly transcends our finite, fallen, imperfect world. Holiness implies differentiation. God alone is HOLY and He alone is worthy of our adoration. He is extraordinary, peerless, awesome, or ‘dreadful’. The wrath and judgement of God is often described as a consuming fire. Listen to this:
The Light of Israel will become a fire,
their Holy One a flame;
in a single day it will burn and consume
his thorns and his briers. (Isaiah 10 – NIV)
And let’s face it, the holiness of God can be intimidating. He is so righteous, so set apart and we are so… well… NOT. Like Isaiah when we come face to face with God’s holiness we fall to our knees with the shocking knowledge of our own unrighteousness. But God in His holiness does not stand far off. His name is ADONAI-M’KADDESH, the Lord who sanctifies. When Isaiah cried out ‘I am a man of unclean lips’ a Seraph descended from the throne of God. He touched Isaiah’s mouth with a burning coal taken from the fire of the altar and his sin was forgiven. God sanctifies His beloved children with fire.
God’s sanctification happens where we least expect it. Our suffering opens us up to God’s righteous-making work. God does not desire or cause our suffering, but in His great love He offers us an option to redeem it. An option to turn weakness into strength. To turn fear into courage. To turn curses into blessings. To turn sorrow into joy.
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(I Peter 1 – NASB)
Our hope – the inheritance we are obtaining cannot be burned, defiled or destroyed. Our salvation is protected and kept in reserve by the power of God. And the suffering and pain we all endure is itself the refining process that perfects our faith – a substance more valuable than gold.
We all have our share of suffering eventually. It comes out of nowhere to slap us in the face when we least expect it. It looks from the outside like some people get a free pass from pain, but looks are deceiving. You need to know that this burden we all bear is NOT God’s desire. He has always wanted better for us. In your suffering and pain never forget that God can use your trials to perfect your faith. In fact, even Jesus who was himself without sin learned obedience from the suffering he endured. Listen to this:
Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
(Hebrews 5 – NIV)
You are free to choose what to do with your pain. You can medicate it, you can run from it, you can rail against it, you can pass it on… OR you can submit it to God and allow Him to redeem it. Don’t waste your pain.