Being Fire Tested

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“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:6-7, NKJV)

Some people I love are walking through hell right now. Friends facing painful divorces.  Friends dealing with infertility. Other friends struggling to make ends meet. Some are job hunting. Others on the search for a mate.

All of them have one thing in common, life hasn’t turned out the way they thought it would. I can relate. As many of you know from reading my blog, I haven’t been immune to life’s hardships and heartaches. This week alone, I’ve been fighting through anxiety–from the absolute bizarre (like I’m going to die because of a brain aneurysm) to the legitimate (How am I going to buy a new car when I dumped all of my savings into repairing it?). Actually, those were just the thoughts I had before 10AM this morning. Granted, I hadn’t had any coffee OR chocolate yet, but still.

Throughout this season, I’ve often uttered these words in a desperate prayer, “God, why are you doing this to me??” It wasn’t disrespectful, I was just trying to wrap my head around the constant struggles. Had I done something to piss Him off and this was my punishment? Maybe it was all those times I prayed with my eyes open. Or did it have something to do with that secret board I have on Pinterest that has hundreds of pictures of bearded men. Whatever it was, I wanted to fix it and fast.

The problem with that mindset of mine is that I was viewing the trials and tests as punishment instead of refining moments.

A few months back, I was talking with my dad who just so happens to be a very wise man. I was sharing with him some of the disappointments and struggles and he turned to me and said, “Holly, trials have the opportunity to produce GOLD in your life.”

Not everyone will produce gold, though. Some people will curse God and walk away. They’ll feel the flames and peace out on the purifying process because it hurts too much. We don’t get to choose when we come off the fire, but we do get to choose how we go through it. There’s no medium-well with God. He’s going to finish the good work He began in us (Phil. 1:6)….if we let Him.

Listen, I’m not belittling the fact that it hurts. I’ve spent countless nights with tears producing puddles on my pillows. It has felt, at times, like the heart in my chest was being ripped into a hundred tiny pieces. A long time ago, I told Jesus I’d give Him my life. In giving Him my life, it meant that I’d trust Him to do with it what He wanted. In the end, I simply trust the heart of God. I am confident He will use all of this for His GOOD, somehow.

I won’t pretend to know the extent of your pain. I’m not here to tell you things are going to get easier. I won’t give you empty sympathy.

All I can give you is this simple encouragement: stay on the fire. Allow Him to refine you. I promise you, you’re going to be gold. You don’t see it now, but He does.

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My life as a prodigal.

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A few days ago, I woke up before my alarm. And as I laid there, all my stresses and anxieties from the past few months awoke as well. Each one feeling like a block of concrete on my chest– one on top of the other keeping me pinned down and gasping for air.

My weary heart turned to God, in that moment, and asked, “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME??”

I was angry. I am angry.

And He whispered, “So, you’ll come to me”. He reminded me of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) and how it was a desperate, weary, broken, poor man who wandered back to his father.

I was starting to see the correlation. You see, the thing that was so devastating about the son’s request was the fact that he wanted his inheritance before his dad even died. He wanted the benefits without the relationship. Just give me my due and I’ll be on my way.

The audacity of that guy, right?!?! As if his father OWED it to him. Selfish, greedy kid.

The more I thought about it though, the more familiar it seemed.

“Jesus where are my blessings? Like the husband I’ve been praying for. Or the check in the mail to cover these medical bills. Or healing for that relationship I keep asking you for.”

I stand there with my open hand demanding my blessing thinking somehow I deserve it. “YOU OWE ME, GOD. After all I’ve done for you. After all I’ve given up. After all I’ve been through.”

The audacity, right? Selfish, greedy kid.

Like a loving Father, He has blessed me in innumerable ways. In things I’ve seen and in some I haven’t recognized. I enjoy the blessings, but think somehow it was because I earned it. Or because I’ve worked so hard. Or been such a “good person”. (All of those things laughable….and untrue.) He let’s me believe it and do my own thing.

Even if that thing is wallowing in a pig pen.

And that’s where I’ve been. For months.  Covered in mud and shit. Stealing the moldy scraps of slop from the pigs. Just enough to SURVIVE. But there’s a moment when you get fed up with simply surviving. There’s a revelation that life wasn’t meant to be just gotten through. It’s this voice in your heart that says, “You were meant for more than this.”

But you’ve got to go home to dad. So, you start the long walk of shame. Along the way, you craft the most eloquent apology you can muster. It’s sprinkled with groveling and dripping with sorrow. Surely, this will guarantee some grace.

And when He sees you, He comes running to you. And before you can even get out your perfectly practiced speech you are met with kisses, open arms and a freakin’ party. It’s the kind of love that’ll stop you in your tracks. The kind of love that’ll restore a broken, hurting heart. 

I think I’m getting it.

It’s not about being independent and doing things MY way. It’s not about working harder or doing MORE. It’s not even about the right words. It’s about Him. About being with HIM. Oddly enough, this parable was shared with the Pharisees and religious teachers of the day. Some theologians will tell you, the main point was to point out to them, that God rejoices when lost things are found. And that is 100% true. But I also wonder, if Jesus was also wanting them to see that even though they could have all the head/book knowledge, all the memorization of Scripture, every law obeyed to the finest detail that it boiled down to being with the Father.

Simply put, a prodigal is anyone who has wasted their life, time and talents for anything less worthy than what they were made and intended for. And we were made to know the Father and make Him known. In the midst of the pain of this season, in all of the unanswered questions and the seemingly unanswered prayers– God’s desire is simply that I come to Him.

I’m coming home, Dad.