Throughout my life, the most profound “word picture” in the Bible has always been the Refiner’s Fire. As a young adult, the image of the Lord being my Refiner helped me endure some of my most difficult trials. Therefore, I’ve chosen to share with you the topic of Trials . . . through the eyes of our Refiner.
In both the Old and New Testaments, we find numerous references to the refining of gold and silver . . . as a parallel of God’s refining us through painful trials. This unforgettable allegory is meant to help us understand the purpose beyond our pain—to conform us to the character of Christ. Clearly, we don’t develop Christlike character all at once. Character is forged over time, especially through fiery trials. Indeed, God is our Refiner. Psalm 66:10 says, “For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver.”
Because the Bible is filled with images of God working as the Refiner in our lives, we can gain much insight by understanding the refining process.
Stage I: The Breaking
—The refiner breaks up the natural ore.
In biblical times, a refiner began by breaking up rough ore—hardened rock encased with common minerals such as tin, copper, and zinc. But that rock also had the promise of valuable, rare metals hidden within—the precious metals of gold and silver. The breaking of the rock is necessary to begin the refining process to expose highly valuable metals to heat. The Lord communicates His perfect plan to us—we are rough rock in need of refining fire. “‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the Lord, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’” (Jeremiah 23:29).
Stage II: The Crucible
—The refiner places unrefined silver into a crucible.
The refiner puts broken, crushed ore into a “crucible”—a fireproof melting pot able to withstand extreme heat. Then the refiner places the crucible into the furnace at the precise temperature necessary for removing other metals that would mar the quality of the gold or silver. Just as the furnace is used to purify silver in the crucible, our Refiner uses heat to purify our hearts and cleanse our character. Proverbs 17:3 says, “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.”
Stage III: The Dross
—The refiner places the crucible in the heated furnace to remove dross.
As the ore melts in the crucible under the watchful eye of the refiner, a layer of impurities called “dross” eventually forms on the surface. The Bible says, “Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel” (Proverbs 25:4). For us individually, dross represents any misplaced dependency—any wrong motive, wrong attitude, wrong action—anything that keeps us from being all that God wants us to be.
Stage IV: The Heat
—The refiner raises the temperature to higher degrees.
After the refiner painstakingly skims off these impurities, he then turns up the heat and places the crucible back into the blistering furnace. Again and again (up to seven times, we are told in historical literature) impurities rise to the surface. He knows that only certain impurities are released at certain temperatures. Psalm 12:6 says, “And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.”
Stage V: The Purification
—The refiner continues to remove the impurities.
Each time, with utmost skill and patience, the refiner removes the dross, leaving behind gleaming gold and shimmering silver . . . more pure and precious than before. To gauge his progress, the refiner looks for his own reflection on the surface of the silver-filled crucible. The more dross removed, the less distorted his reflection. The Bible says our Refiner sits over the refining process to purify us, “He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
Stage VI: The Reflection
—The refiner sees a clear image of himself.
Only when the refiner looks into the crucible and sees a clear reflection of himself is the process complete. Finally, the silver attains its highest degree of purity! And that, my friend, describes our Refiner’s loving intentions for allowing us to be in the “furnace of affliction.” As we trust Him to use our trials to cleanse our character and purify our hearts, we will begin to see the “silver lining.” Isaiah 48:10 says, “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
But how do we hang on to hope in the midst of our trials, especially when the heat is turned up beyond what we think we can bear? We persevere by pressing into the heart of the One who allowed the trial . . . trusting in His perfect plan and His character . . . and surrendering our will to His will.
Remember, the pain God allows in your life is purposeful. The heat is never intended to destroy you, only to conform you into the character of Christ. His gaze is continually affixed to your crucible. As the heat of painful circumstances intensifies in your life, know that the Lord will never leave you nor forsake you. “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify . . . and refine them like gold and silver” (Malachi 3:3).
As you allow the Master Refiner to do His work, transforming your life into His image, I’d like to share a Scripture that has been the bedrock in my own life, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2). My prayer is that these words from the Lord will be a comfort to you as they have been to me.
I want to offer a powerful resource to help you—and help you help others—walk with the Lord through trials. Filled with biblical hope and practical help, our Quick Reference Guide on Trials is an inspirational source of comfort and peace. You can download your free copy today at www.HopeForTheHeart.org/trials. At Hope For The Heart, there is not a day that passes that the Lord doesn’t bring people to us who are in the midst of traumatic trials. Many are being reached through our books which are available in other languages, our broadcasts, our worldwide counseling Hope Centers, the monthly Biblical Counseling Institute, and many other avenues. We consider it the highest privilege to share God’s Truth for Today’s Problems with each person. It is a blessing and a privilege to partner with you in this effort.
Thank you for your heart to help . . . your financial gifts . . . your overflowing encouragement . . . and your persistent prayers. Truly, you are like wind beneath my wings.
Yours in the Lord’s hope,
Original publish date: July 2013