Last week, as I was reading the Bible, I came upon this verse:
Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the LORD tests the heart.
Proverbs 17:3 (New Living Translation)
I paused to think about what that means in a practical sense, and I also sought some additional insight on the testing of silver and gold, since clearly the author of this proverb was drawing a comparison. Here’s what I found:
To test the purity of silver and gold, the metals must be heated to 1800 and 1700 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. These are their boiling points, and the points where all impurities burn away. This is a process known as refining. Once the process is complete, nothing but pure silver and gold remain.
Likewise, God is testing, or refining, our hearts – our innermost being – so when the day comes for us to step into eternity, we will reflect His full glory without blemish. Each of us is of great inherent value, created by the Almighty God in His glorious image. However, each of us is also tarnished and polluted by the sin which floods this world, passed down since Adam. And while we sometimes find it difficult to see beyond that tarnish and pollution, the loving eyes of God, our Father, sees each of us as a beautiful jewel. He is on a mission to restore us to the glory He created us for.
But just as it has to get pretty hot for silver and gold to be purified, we sometimes have to endure some harsh circumstances as we undergo our own refining process. Thankfully, we are under the dominion of a wonderful, gracious, merciful, loving God and not an indiscriminate fire. Still, the reality is that trials and afflictions are unavoidable means to our purification.
As I searched for more passages in the Bible about God testing us, I was especially touched by this one:
You have tested us, O God;
you have purified us like silver melted in a crucible.
You captured us in your net
and laid the burden of slavery on our backs.
You sent troops to ride across our broken bodies.
We went through fire and flood.
But you brought us to a place of great abundance.
Psalm 66:10-12 (New Living Translation)
Did you notice that last sentence? But you brought us to a place of great abundance. Our vision often does not allow us to see that place in advance of our arrival, while we are yet being captured in a net, bearing the burden of slavery, being ridden across by an army, going through fire and flood, or whatever your current trials and tribulations may be. But everything God does is with that destination – a place of abundance – in mind. The testimony of this psalmist continues to speak of God’s goodness a few verses later:
Come and listen, all you who fear God,
and I will tell you what he did for me.
For I cried out to him for help,
praising him as I spoke.
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart,
my Lord would not have listened.
But God did listen!
He paid attention to my prayer.
Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer
and did not withdraw his unfailing love from me.
Psalm 66:16-20 (New Living Translation)
Those words are important, because in them, we see no residual pain or regret from the previous affliction. Instead, we hear a testimony of victory.
When we find ourselves in the boiling heat of the refining crucible, we need to hear the testimony of those who have endured and made it to the other side. First of all, that testimony reminds us that there is another side. Secondly, in these verses, we learn how to effectively relate to God during difficult times:
- Cry out to Him.
- But praise Him at the same time.
- Confess the sin in our hearts – not just what we’ve done, but the very thoughts and desires within us which are displeasing to God.
When we approach God in this same manner, we can be sure that He will listen to us, He will pay attention, and He will not withdraw His unfailing love. Not because God follows a predictable formula, but because in His perfect love, He cannot help but respond to His children in this way. It’s in His DNA, you might say.
I realize that in challenging times, it is often more pleasant to read/talk/think about God’s immediate blessings, healings, deliverance, and so on. In contrast, at surface level, the thought of God testing us may not seem so comforting. But when we get a glimpse of the ultimate reward that awaits each of us at the end of this refining process, there is nothing more beautiful. Here is one final verse to help us keep the right perspective:
These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
1 Peter 1:7 (New Living Translation)