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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Furnace of Affliction

"The thermostat on the furnace of affliction will not have been set too high for us - though clearly we may think so at the time. Our God is a refining God who has been tempering soul-steel for a very long time. He knows when the right edge has been put up on our excellence and also when there is more in us than we have yet given. One day we will praise God for taking us near to our limits - as He did His Only Begotten in Gethsemane and Calvary." - Neal A. Maxwell

The following is a little story - perhaps fictional, but still containing truth - that has helped me on many occasions to put things into perspective when in the midst of the "furnace of affliction." In particular, it has helped me through recent heartache and pain.

Years ago, a group of women met together to read the Bible. While reading the third chapter of Malachi they came upon a remarkable expression in the third verse: "And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."

Intrigued by this expression, they debated its meaning until one of them proposed to visit a silversmith and report back to her friends what he said on the subject. She went accordingly and found an old silversmith. Without telling him the objective of her errand, she begged to know the process of refining silver. He then proceeded to describe the process to her. "But Sir," she said, "Do you sit while the work of refining is going on?"

"Oh yes, Madam," replied the silversmith, "I must sit with my eye steadily fixed on the furnace, for if the time necessary for refining is exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured."

The lady at once saw the beauty and comfort of the expression, "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." Christ sees it needful to put His children into a furnace; His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying, and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for them. Their trials do not come at random; the very hairs of their heads are numbered.

As the woman was about to leave, she thought to ask one more question of the silversmith: "How do you know when the refining process is complete?"

He then replied, "I only know when the process of purifying is complete by seeing my image reflected in the silver."

There is purpose for what we experience. We are known in such personal and intimate ways by a loving Father, who tenderly watches over us as we go through our refiner's fire. I find great comfort in knowing that He knows me and is with me every step of the way.

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