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JFH Devotionals by J.M. Farro

Painful Times

"This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The Lord is our God." - Zechariah 13:9 NIV

I have been through many trials when the Lord has used the passage above to speak to my heart. It has been God's way of assuring me that He has a divine purpose for my suffering that will ultimately work for my good. I must confess that when I see any form of the word "refine" in the Scriptures, it makes me shudder. I know that it often refers to the process of refining precious metals, which involves heating the metals until all impurities have been removed. I once heard someone say that God may not change our circumstances until our circumstances change us. So I have found it very valuable to seek the Lord during troubled times to find out what it is He wants me to learn from my distress. Since God can control the intensity and duration of my trials, I count on Him to protect and reward me as I make a quality decision to cooperate with His desires and purposes for them. What fills me with hope when I read Zechariah 13:9 is the part that says, "They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are My people,' and they will say, 'The Lord is our God.'" In other words, for those of us who belong to the Lord, our suffering is meant to draw us closer to Him, and to enable us to get ready answers to our prayers. The Message Bible puts it this way - "Then they'll pray to Me by name and I'll answer them personally."

A similar passage in the Scriptures is Psalm 66:10-12 (NKJV): "For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment." These verses speak of the intense suffering God allowed His people to go through in order to "test" and "refine" them. The saddest part for me is where the psalmist declares, "You have caused men to ride over our heads." The Amplified translation adds, "when we were prostrate". That tells me that there are times when the Lord will allow people to kick us when we are down. When these people are the ones who are supposed to love us the most, it can be especially painful.

Fortunately, that is not the end of the story. After testing and refining us, the Lord "brings us out" of our misery. He never meant for us to stay in a painful place, but to only allow us to pass through it. Sure, we can camp there if we want to, by prolonging our trials more than necessary. How do we do that? By failing to seek God's wisdom, comfort, and healing in the midst of them. By focusing too much on our misery, and drowning ourselves in self-pity, bitterness, and resentment. By lashing out at others and mistreating them, instead of keeping our "love walk" intact. Or by playing the "blame game" and refusing to see the part that we played in our own problems. On the other hand, as we keep our eyes on the Lord, and ask for and receive His guidance, consolation, and strength, He will "bring us out to rich fulfillment" - even the fulfillment of our fondest hopes and dreams.

Both of these passages assure us that when God allows us to go through painful times, He always has good intentions and purposes in mind for us. If you will believe that and remember that when you are hurting, you will never lose hope, no matter how intense your trials get. How can YOU apply the truths in this message to YOUR life today?

Prayer: Lord, when You allow me to pass through refining fires, remind me that You always have good purposes for them. Lead me to seek Your wisdom, power, and comfort in difficult times. Help me to hear and to heed Your voice every step of the way. Don't allow me to wallow in self-pity, resentment, or bitterness. Teach me to cooperate with You every moment so that I won't unintentionally intensify or prolong my trials. Thank You that because of Your goodness and mercy, my troubles will draw me closer to You, and to the fulfillment of my hopes and dreams!

- J. M. Farro


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