“Refined by Fire” is a new series about an incredibly difficult period of my life and my journey to actually appreciating the hardships that God allowed to happen. Just like gold is refined in a furnace, as painful as this "refining process" feels, I know now that it was used to serve a much deeper purpose. Every piece in my "Refined by Fire" series features glimmers of gold leaf against chaotic backgrounds in the design. The gold leaf symbolizes the strength and value that gradually reveal themselves once we trust God and allow his refinement process to transform us. Even if you don't consider yourself a religious person, I think the same idea applies: adjust your perspective and use the hardships to strengthen your character.
This slide show is a preview of the pieces from the series. If something strikes your interest, you can learn more about the individual pieces here. Continue to read on below to learn more about my journey and the influences behind this new body of work.
Imagine this: Your parent’s home of nearly 30 years burns to the ground, your beloved grandmother dies, legal issues divide your close-knit family, your father-in-law is diagnosed with stage four cancer, then a divorce in the family, and if that wasn't enough, both you and your spouse lose your jobs…and then image that all of these tragic things happen within a one-year time period. Sounds like the perfect plot for a Hollywood drama, right? If only it were a movie. Sadly, that was my actual life in 2016. With each new month that rolled around, I braced myself and wondered “what’s next?” As you can imagine, I was beat down, stressed out and scared. But most of all, I struggled to understand why did all of this happen.
As a Christian, I know that God loves me. But when you love someone, you certainly don’t keep kicking them over and over while they’re down. So then why would God allow these horrible things to keep happening? I often referred to 2016 as my “Job Year.” If you’re not familiar with Job, he was a man in the Bible who had it all – wealth, large family, servants and plenty of possessions – and he loved God with all of his heart. And God loved him too...but, God decided to test him by allowing Satan to take it all away in one giant swoop, even affecting his physical health. Job is left with nothing, not even the respect of his friends. All he can do is sit on an ash heap, nurse his wounds and wonder, “What did I do to deserve this?” Although I didn’t get it nearly as bad as Job, I felt like I could relate on some level. So, when I heard about a Bible study on Job, I'm sure you can understand why I felt compelled to go.
During the study, I came across a quote from a Christian writer named Warren Wiersbe that really stuck with me. It said,“Some people go into the furnace of affliction and it burns them; others go in and the experience purifies them. What makes the difference? Their attitude toward the Word of God and the will of God. Gold does not fear the fire. The furnace can only make the gold purer and brighter. If we are nourished by the Word and submit to His will, the furnace experience, as painful as it may be, will refine us and make us better. But if we resist God’s will and fail to feed on His truth, the furnace experience will only burn us and make us bitter.” The bad things that happen to us aren't necessarily "punishment" or "bad karma." God purposely puts us through certain trials in order to refine us. And as much as it hurts Him to see us suffer, he knows we’ll never reach our full potential unless we go through this painful refinement process. As his creation, we are the most precious things to Him. SO IF GOLD DOESN’T FEAR THE FIRE THEN WHY SHOULD WE?! Especially once we realize that He’s in the furnace with us holding our hand.
Job 23:10 “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as Gold.”
I learned SO MUCH during this study but the most important takeaway for me was this: I may never know the reasons God chose to put me through this trial...and that's ok. All I have to do is put my trust in God that He's strengthening me into the person that He needs me to be. And, it’s about having a better understanding of who God is, that way I can build a personal relationship with Him and better understand His purpose for my life. When we are humbled, we are more willing to listen. If it took all of this chaos to bring me to my knees, so that I finally look up to Him – then it was all worth it. I can honestly say that I feel the strongest, deepest connection with God that I have ever felt. I’m at a point now where I can sincerely praise Him for putting me into the furnace and refining me into a stronger Christian.
Isaiah 48:10 “See, I have refined you, though not as silver, I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
If you feel like you're currently "in the furnace" then know this: There’s no way to rush the refining process...the furnace needs time to do its work. Trust that amidst the pain from the fire, God knows your potential. Gradually, the gold will begin to shine through in you, and you’ll come out on the other side an even better and stronger person for it.