The hardest part of suffering is time. A short stab of pain hurts us, but we recover and go on. Yet, when a prolonged period of suffering comes, we long for relief and cry out to God, “how long must this go on?” By that we often mean, “surely Lord, this is too long!” Yet as he reminds us in Isaiah 55:8 :
“…my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
I think often of Joseph as he sat in the prison. The king’s cupbearer had promised he would speak to the king for him, but there was no word. Days and nights dragged on for him as he wondered, “how long will this go on, Lord?”
Then there was David who was chased continually by Saul. David thought, I dare not lay a hand on God’s chosen King, (1 Samuel 24) but surely in those darker days as he hid himself in the Cave he must have wondered, “how long will this go on, Lord?”
Or what about Job! He lost his children, his home and his health. As he sat in the dust quietly afflicted with physical suffering and spiritual pain, surely he wondered, “How long will this go on, Lord?”
Time seems to stretch when we are suffering. Time appears to go slower when there is pain. However, when God seems inactive that does not mean he is not present. Often, the way He prepares his people is through time.
In James 1, we are called to persevere in trials and afflictions and the way he calls us to that is with the word “testing”. This word conjures up the image of the blacksmith standing over the refining fire and heating the metal to such a point that all of the impurities fall off. The result is that the metal is stronger because of its purity.
So often it is the Lord’s way of preparing his saints by bringing them into the refining fire. Some metal may stay in the fire longer than others, as all are used for different tasks. Yet, we can be assured that, even though the Lord will keep us in the fire for as long as we need, he always knows when is the time to remove us. He will refine away until he sees his reflection in us and, seeing that reflection, he will then set upon us the task he made us for.
Many of us may be in the fire as we read this, many of us may be about to begin the process and perhaps some are near the end. Yet, despite the time needed, it is good to remember that when we stand in heaven we will say, “Yes Lord, it was good for that to have happened to me.” We will never question the need for God to have placed us into that refining process, for we will so clearly see the benefit of it. Truly, I believe then we will know the full meaning of Romans 8:28:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Praying for the comfort of Christ for you this month,
Rev Dan Paterson