I came across this verse last week, and I couldn’t help but linger on the reference to being refined as silver – tried in the furnace of affliction. While sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down and feel discouraged about life’s challenges (big or small), this verse is a great reminder that these afflictions serve a great purpose.
9 “For my name’s sake I defer my anger,
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another. Isaiah 48:9-11 (ESV)
When a Christian is saved by faith in Christ, the work here on earth is only beginning in their life – the work of sharing and spreading the gospel and that of being transformed more and more into the image of Christ over time. The latter is often referred to as the process of sanctification, and the Bible makes it clear that it is not supposed to be comfortable and easy.
In fact, it is often through trials that God refines us, just as silver or gold is refined by fire and heat. The heat makes the impurities bubble up to the surface so that they can be removed. Just like my own impurities (in the form of selfishness, pride, anger) bubble to the surface when my day ends up more frustrating than expected.
Instead of being discouraged and focus on my shortcomings, I should realize that each challenge is an opportunity to bring me closer to God, to make me more like Him, and to bring glory to His great name. God wants it to be clear that my strength comes from Him, and what better way than to keep me humbled and reliant on Him for that strength through afflictions?
As I read this verse, the image of a blacksmith working a horseshoe came to mind – heating it in the fire, pulling it out with tongs, then proceeding to hammer it with great force until it is worked into the proper and most functional shape for the horse. A horseshoe is a useful object, a practical one. And I can’t help but think that some of life’s daily challenges are shaping me into a perfect horseshoe.