The Refiner’s Fire

In addition to my Book of Mormon Institute class with Brother S., I take a Thursday evenings Isaiah class taught by Brother M. Oh, how I love this class!! I’ve always had a great love for the words of Isaiah, and I realize that it is a very great blessing that I am able to understand and appreciate Isaiah with [relative] ease. I think that every time I open my scriptures, whether within the Book of Mormon or within the Bible, I come to have  a greater love for Isaiah. I get excited about  it, for it makes me extremely happy, because it builds my testimony. So, needless to say, I love my Isaiah class with Brother M.

Rarely in our classes to we entirely cover the chapters we prepare. We read three chapters in preparation for each class, but generally spend much of our hour and a half together on but one chapter, or one principle or theme. One of the two themes we explored this evening was found in Isaiah 48:10.

“Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.”

I’ve loved this verse for a long time, and have it marked in 1 Nephi 20:10 as well. Isaiah tells us, and Nephi reaffirms, that we are refined through our afflictions: we become better Children through our burdens of sorrow and adversity, through our tribulations and trials. We are chosen of our Heavenly Father through what we allow ourselves to become in that furnace of affliction.

Oftentimes, when we think of verses such as these, we think of metalsmiths who use a furnace to burn away the impurities and make the silver or gold more beautiful. Passing through fires allows for the precious metals to be strengthened as well. One of the sisters in my class mentioned, while we were discussing this principle, that various metals must also be closely monitored in terms of temperature. The flames must not be too cool, neither may they become too hot, for they are then destructive. The temperature at which each metal fires differs greatly: gold melts at a much lower temperature than silver does, and so forth.

When applied to ourselves, we realize that Heavenly Father does not allow us to suffer afflictions that are too great for us: we are not given more than we are able to bear. That which we learn in our ‘fiery’ afflictions cleanses us, it teaches us, strengthens and refines us. Brother M. reminded us of the CES address that Elder Jeffery R. Holland gave a few years ago, entitledLessons from Liberty Jail (also published in the September 2009 Ensign). I listen to that address often, especially when I find that I am struggling or feeling helpless.

Elder Holland spoke of the lessons that we learn from Joseph’s time in the “prison-temple” of Liberty Jail, and that “you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in any situation you are in. Indeed, you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life.” Elder Holland continued, saying that the most important experiences we might have are those when we are in the midst of enduring the hardest trials of our lives. What we gain from those trials is what refines us, what makes us better, stronger and more beautiful souls.

The key, I believe, is to remembering that our Father is ever near. Indeed, we have been promised by the Lord that, “there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:88). I was reminded of a favorite hymn, Nearer, My God to Thee:

Nearer, my God, to thee, Nearer to thee!

E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me.

Still all my song shall be Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer, my God, to thee, Nearer to thee!

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,

Darkness be over me, My rest a stone,

Yet in my dreams I’d be Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer, my God, to thee, Nearer to thee!

There let my way appear, steps unto heav’n;

All that thou sendest me, in mercy giv’n;

Angels to beckon me Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer, my God, to thee, Nearer to thee!

Then with my waking thoughts bright with thy praise,

Out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;

So by my woes to be Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

I truly love this hymn, and I think it holds a special place in many hearts. It helps us to realize that it is the blessings of our afflictions that we have the opportunity to draw closer to our Heavenly Father. We prove to him, through those trials, that we are His chosen, that we are refined and are trying to become more like Him. We will struggle, there are no doubts to that, but so did the prophets of old. If they – holy men to whom God spoke – suffered, why then do we feel that we must not? I suppose we all need to learn that lesson of being grateful in the midst of sorrow, for it is that sorrow and those trials that allow us to feel the joy to come.

This evening, instead of the metalsmithing analogy that generally comes to mind, I was drawn to glass instead. I wrote in my journal during Institute (Brother M., like Brother S. has gotten into the habit of ‘spiritual free-writes’ during class, which I thoroughly enjoy), and haven’t been able to stop thinking about the idea.

We are all chosen and proven in our afflictions. The Lord is as a glassblower: we are thrust into the fire to make us malleable, to prepare us for beauty. When we are withdrawn from the flames, we are shaped. We are pulled and drawn, made beautiful. It is when we are crimson from the flames that we are able to receive colored frit. The heat makes us able to accept the colors, the shapes. The heat allows us to endure drawing and spinning without breaking, and through that, we are able to become beautiful and individual. It is our preparation in the flames of adversity and struggle, sorrow and pain that allow us to become, within the Refiner’s Fire, beautiful stained glass.

I’d also like to note that glass is made of heated sand. How much more beautiful is our transformation to a beautiful pane of stained glass when we consider the commonplace origin? What a miraculous blessing, then, is the Refiner’s Furnace.

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2 thoughts on “The Refiner’s Fire

  1. Pingback: Day 10 {1 Nephi 19-20} « A Peculiar Girl

  2. Pingback: Day 23 {2 Nephi 23-24} « A Peculiar Girl

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