"But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good..."
Lori and I were out shopping....making our rounds,
Lori and I were out shopping....making our rounds,
hitting all of our favorite primitive, antique, and second-hand stores,
when I stumbled upon this wonderful little gem hanging on a wall towards the back
I loved what it says so much, I couldn't just leave it hanging there!
I had to bring it home with me.
I'm glad I did.
It was one of those impulse buys that I didn't live to regret.
I hung it on the bathroom wall...
the one Kevin and Zach redid for me primitive-style.
Every time I read it, it gives me hope.
It reminds me that good comes out of bad.
That God has a plan....always...
and even if the beginning of a situation is sad, and not so beautiful,
it has within it the potential to produce the best and brightest flowers.
And, here's the thing....
sometimes we don't find out that the not-so-beautiful seed is in the process of producing the oh-so-beautiful flowers
until long after the seed has been planted.
We don't know it is even happening.
It is not an instantaneous revelation.
It doesn't go from ugly to beautiful overnight.
The seed has to go through a sometimes-lengthy germination process
before the flowers actually begin to break forth, blossom, and bloom.
Depending on what type of flower it is,
the length of this whole process varies.
Plants known as annuals sometimes don't produce their flowers until the end of the season.
It takes biennials two seasons, as they actually lie dormant during colder months.
Perennials, like roses and daisies, blossom repeatedly, at different times of the year.
The special thing about perennials is that they wither down in the winter,
but bloom again the next spring.
During the germination process, it is hard to believe that anything beautiful will ever be produced.
One could even give up hope and think their labors involved in planting the seed were all in vain.
They can look at the black soil, showing no sign of life, and walk away disappointed,
discouraged, frustrated, and disheartened...feeling like they have wasted their time.
Or they can take heart seeing a stem that has poked through the soil,
then become disappointed as it seems to be growing ever so slowly
or not growing at all.
We don't always see what is going on under the surface.
God allows a trial to start...a not-so-beautiful seed...
and all we see is the ugliness, the pain, the feelings of abandonment,
when all along, He is working all things together for our good.
After the trial is past, many times, we can look back and see how something
truly beautiful sprang forth from it.
Sometimes, it takes years.
In my quest to read the Bible through this year,
I just recently completed reading the book of Genesis again.
Oh, I enjoyed it!
I absolutely love the Old Testament.
There are so many precious gems and nuggets of spiritual good in its pages.
I feel I am barely skimming the surface.
Could one person ever hope to unearth it all in one lifetime?
I never tire of reading the story of Joseph.
I become so engrossed in it, and I always feel sad when I reach the 50th chapter
and read about his death.
This man understood true suffering.
He was thoroughly rejected by his own,
sold into slavery,
taken to live in a foreign land away from all that was familiar and dear,
and thrown into prison, where he was cast aside and forgotten for years.
Talk about feeling abandoned by God.
Even after he had held fast to his integrity,
even though he always did what was right,
even though he had dreamed dreams of a blessed life,
even though he made wise choices,
he was led into the crucible of human suffering.
As I read the story through this time,
God opened my eyes to see things about Joseph's story that I had never noticed before.
Even though Joseph was what we would consider a "good" person,
he had some character flaws.
He was in need of refinement.
God had a plan.
Joseph was in it.
God had a Divine call upon his life.
But, in order to equip him to fulfill that call,
there were some rough edges that had to go.
For example, take a look at the 17 year old Joseph.
The Joseph who dreamed lofty, God-given dreams of being superior to his 11 brothers.
The one who couldn't wait to run and tell his brothers about the dreams.
The one who was dubbed by his father, Jacob, as the favorite son.
The one who didn't make the slightest attempt to hide it.
The one who proudly wore the coat of many colors made especially for him by his father,
flaunting it in his brothers' faces every time he put it on.
The one who, from outward appearances, possibly held a higher opinion of himself
than he should have had.
The plans God had made for Joseph were of the stateliest sort.
God planned to prosper him, and give him a future
that would include being the 2nd in command over the land of Egypt.
To be a good leader, one must be humble.
One must be teachable.
One cannot have such a high opinion of one's self.
There were lessons Joseph had to learn before God could exalt him
to the place of honor He envisioned for him.
There was a refining process that had to take place.
The only way to refine Joseph's dross was to place him in the fire.
It would take no less than 22 long, arduous years for Joseph
to see the fulfillment of his teenage dreams.
At the age of 39, he saw and realized the full fruition of those dreams.
He saw his 11 brothers bow down before him,
begging him for food,
pleading with him for mercy.
It was a different Joseph that stood before them, as they bowed.
No longer the proud, boastful 17 year old,
but a fully-mature, dross-removed, established-in-God, humble man....
so humble that when he saw the dreams fulfilled...right in front of his very eyes....
he did not gloat.
There were no "I told you so's".
No "You are getting what you deserved".
No "You did me wrong, now I am in a position to get even."
No "You should have listened when I told you that one day you would all bow down to me."
None of that.
Not even the slightest trace of enjoyment of their miserable plight.
When Joseph saw them, his reaction was not one of a hot-headed teenager,
but of a man who had walked through the fire with God.
A man who had learned anguish-filled lessons in the school of hard knocks.
A man whose God-like character had been forged and perfected in the crucible of pain.
A man who did not take delight in watching his traitors grovel.
Joseph's reaction to seeing his brothers bowed down to the ground at his feet?
With such anguish that the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard his cries.
This was a changed man.
A man fitted and equipped to carry out the life-work God intended for him to live.
His transformation did not happen overnight.
It was a process.
The beginning of his refining started with a not so beautiful seed
when his very brothers betrayed and sold him into the hands of foreigners.
Towards the end of Joseph's story,
he said this to his brothers,
"But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good..."
There wasn't a trace of bitterness in his tone.
No desire for vengeance.
This was a purged-of-dross version of Joseph.
Photo by Angela Gellenbeck
Have you ever heard the story of the silver refiner?
I received it in an email from someone a long time ago.
I don't know where this originated and was unable to verify its validity or the author,
but I wanted to share it here.
"There was a group of women in a Bible study on the book of Malachi.
As they were studying chapter three they came across verse three which says,
"He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."
This verse puzzled the women, and they wondered what this statement meant
about the character and nature of God.
One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver
and get back to the group at their next Bible study.
That week the woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work.
She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest in silver 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 so as 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, that 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 was 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."
As the refiner melts the silver in the crucible,
the impurities that float to the top are called dross.
Purify the silver and remove the dross,
and what remains is a vessel God can fill and use.
The definition of dross is....
the scum that forms on the surface of molten metal as a result of oxidation,
waste, impure, or foreign matter; impurity,
something that is base, worthless, trivial, or inferior
It is not beneficial to the silver.
It must be removed, and the only way to make that happen...
the only way to separate the dross from the true silver....
is to use extreme heat.
"And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver..."
Only our Refiner knows how much heat is necessary to remove the dross from our character.
Only He knows how long we should be left in the heat.
Only He can see whether or not His Own image is yet reflected in us.
Only He knows how long the "germination" process from a not-so-beautiful seed
to a bright and beautiful flower will take.
There is dross in each one of us,
and in order for our Refiner to have a vessel that is fit for Him to use,
He must first remove it from our character.
Having dross on board makes us inferior to what God desires us to be.
It hinders our progress and impedes our usability in His hand.
I am finding as I walk this Christian path that the dross-removal process requires
more than a one-time trip to the Refiner's crucible.
If we ever begin to feel that we are completely dross-free,
we are only fooling ourselves.
Looking back over my life, I can see that each time I have entered a fiery trial,
God has had a purpose.
There was dross on board....
dross that I often didn't even know was there.
Dross that was ugly and worthless and vile.
Dross that was holding me back from being all God wanted me to be.
Dross that hindered God from seeing His image in me.
Dross that I would never have even realized was present in me,
had I not watched it rise to the surface in the heat.
I have prayed much in this current furnace of trial.
I have sought God's face diligently...fervently...earnestly.
Begged Him to show me.
Today, it finally hit me that He has been showing me....already.
During this trial, dross has risen to the surface.
I hadn't identified it as being such....until today.
Who wants to claim their own dross?
Who enjoys watching such undesirables float to the surface,
realizing they spring forth from their own nature?
As the intensity of the fire causes the dross to rise, and it begins to make itself evident,
we may as well face the music and own it.
It is ours.
Whether we admit it or not.
It hit me like a ton of bricks...today...as I sat and typed the words to this devotional.
This trial is not without reason.
God, the Refiner knew all along...
there was hidden dross, buried deep, and I didn't know it.
He is using this present heat...to bring it all to the surface...
to my attention. To make me see.
He has brought me to this place...this valley....this affliction....
and He has not yet seen that it is in my best interest to remove me from here....
because the refining process is not yet finished.
He loves me too much to allow me to go a step further laden with dross.
Other people can see and falsely assume that we are purified.
They can see us as dross-free and holy, based on our demeanor and outward appearances.
God isn't interested in outward appearances,
no matter how showy or sanctimonious they be.
God cares about what is going on inside the heart.
We can look at ourselves and overlook the dross...
even pass it off as being a trait that "runs in our family".
We can blame it on Aunt Ruth's impatience,
Grand-Mama's proud spirit,
Mama's jealous bone,
or Grand-Daddy's fiery temper.
We can even be truly oblivious to it
and totally unaware that it is even there,
when all along...
under the surface, hidden within the elements,
undiscovered dross lurks.
Last night, I was feeling really bad, physically,
tired and beaten down from the length of this trial.
I really poured out my heart to God,
and I asked Him to search me.
To know me.
Just like David did in Psalm 139:23-24, when he prayed,
"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
You know why?
Because I no longer trust myself.
I will not trust my own ability to search.
I overlook too many things.
I make excuses for shortcomings.
I, too often, am tempted to sweep problem areas under the rug,
pretend they aren't happening,
and sincerely intend to go back later and deal with them.
More often than not, later never comes.
So, the problem stays there...under the rug....out of sight and out of mind...to me...
but not to God.
"...all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do."
Perhaps David had come to the same conclusion I have when he prayed that prayer.
Maybe he didn't trust himself, either.
Maybe that is why He asked GOD to search him and know his heart
and try him and know his thoughts.
It is possible that he had a tendency to overlook his own dross,
or perhaps, he had learned, like me, that dross is often not visible to us...
that the only One Who can really see all of us is God...
and it would be wisest to allow Him to do the searching.
I prayed David's prayer, and I meant it with all my heart.
He pointed me back to some things He has already been dealing with me about.
It is so plain to me that this is the Divine purpose for this trial.
The other day, I stood at the kitchen sink, feeling very defeated,
and the Spirit of God spoke to me and said,
"I'm not finished with you yet."
He let me know that He still wants to use me...here on earth.
I could never put into words how much that comforted my heart!
This trial is to remove the dross from the silver,
so I will come forth as a more usable, better-equipped vessel.
When I began to listen to His voice and view this fiery furnace from this angle and through this lens,
it gave me courage.
It comforted me....knowing this is not the end of the journey.
It is merely a stopping point...
a period of time spent in the Refiner's crucible...being purged of inward dross.
How else would we know the dross is there?
If He didn't stop us and hold us in the midst of the fire until it floats to the top...
where we can see it, deal with it, and get rid of it out of our lives?
This trial started as a not so beautiful seed.
That's for sure.
But, this germination process....this stop on the fast-track of life....
this time of being dropped into the intense heat for dross-removal
is fulfilling God's mission.
He has a plan for me.
Just as He has for you, my friend.
Wherever you find yourself today,
He is absolutely in control.
He knows where you are.
He placed you there.
He hasn't forgotten you.
Nor will He leave you there too long.
His timing is perfect.
One day, the not so beautiful seed will produce the best and brightest flowers...
just like my little, stitched sign says....
you will see....and so will I.