Beauty and Comfort in the Refining
By: Carmen Scalise
“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” Malachi 3:3
Have you ever wondered what this verse means or how it reflects God’s character? I certainly have.
As I read through verses in the Book of Malachi, I found that the first accusation was targeted at the priesthood for offering impure sacrifices (Malachi 1:6–8). As a result, God threatened to remove impurities from His sanctuary in the same way that priests discarded animal wastes (Malachi 2:3). The priesthood would be "refined." Here, that metaphor is being applied to the priesthood of Israel. The tribe of Levi was charged with caring for the temple, and only Levites could be priests. Rather than abandon them (Malachi 1:2–5), or destroy them (Malachi 3:6), God planned to refine them. Of course, this meant passing through the fire. A "refiner's fire" is the process used to remove impurities from precious metals.
Seeking to understand how this applied in my life, I dug deeper and found a story that gave me a new perspective on this verse. But most importantly, it helped me understand what God is trying to do in our lives when He wants to refine us.
There once was a Bible study group reading Malachi, and when they came across Malachi 3:3, the group wondered how this verse reflected the character and nature of God. One of the group members offered to find out about the process of refining silver and report back. She contacted a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She did not mention the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot, then she thought again about the verse – “He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.” She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. For if the silver were left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's the easy part – when I see my image reflected in it."
Over the past few months, I’ve personally experienced challenges in every area of my life (relational, financial, spiritual, and health), all at once. It was unexpected and came at me like a tidal wave. There has been disappointment, loss, fear, and despair. There have been times when it seems as if I will be swallowed whole by the fires of hell itself. The pain seems too hard to bear. The fear is paralyzing. The doubt is overwhelming, and questions flood my heart and mind.
How can a loving God allow His children to suffer when He could easily change their circumstances?
In fact, why does God even allow bad things to happen to people who are seeking Him and really trying to live for Him?
Can I really trust God?
But then I realized why God brought me to this verse. Our trials are not random persecutions. This was no surprise to Him. He knew exactly what I was going to go through and how He was going to get me through it. Just as silver needs to be refined and purified, I, too, needed to go through the process of refinement. We may be knocked down by events in life, but if we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we will not be destroyed but instead refined.
Our lives are filled with excess baggage and waste – a cherished sin we refuse to relinquish or an addiction to which we are enslaved. What about the emotional garbage that weighs us down or our unforgiving spirit that holds us prisoner? Fiery trials come to burn away the sin and purify our heart. From those ashes of freedom, the Father then creates a work of beauty.
I believe in these words and accept that trials and hard times make me stronger and strengthen my faith, but there are times when I want it all to stop. I find myself asking, How much is enough, Lord? How many trials do I have to endure? When will the pain and trouble end? But then I remember His promise, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4 NIV)
God is not committed to our comfort. He is committed to our character. Only God can exchange the ashes of our sin for the beauty of His forgiveness and grace. God alone can replace our despair with His peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Hope can only be found in Him. Our purpose in life is to know and become more like Jesus … and act just like Him.
If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eyes on you. He will keep His hand on you and watch over you until He sees His image in you. Ask Him to give you strength to withstand the trials in your life so He may teach you how to trust and live for Him. I hope this message encourages you that even though we go through trials and hardships, we will not be destroyed, but we will be purified by the Refiner’s fire.
Heavenly Father, I praise and thank you that you are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Thank you that your promises are fixed in heaven because of your goodness and faithfulness. Forgive us for the way that we have gone against you and followed our own foolish ways and desires. Father, search my heart today and cleanse and purify my inner being. Thank you for your promise that in Christ I shall come forth as purified silver, to your praise and glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN.