Note the great and glorious end of this fiery process: both a righteous offering to the LORD and a vessel formed, prepared, and beautified—”a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21).
Blessed result! Oh the wonders wrought by the fire of God’s furnace! Not only is God glorified in the fire, but also the believer is sanctified.
Have you ever observed the process of the craftsman in preparing his beautiful ornament? After taking it from its mold, skillfully and properly formed, he then traces upon it the design he intended it should bear, dipping his brush in varied hues of the brightest coloring. But the work is not yet finished. The shape of that ornament is yet to be fixed, the figures are to be set, the colors perpetuated, and the whole work consolidated. By what process? By passing through the fire. The fire alone completes the work.
That is how it is with the chastened soul—that beautifully constructed vessel, which is to adorn the palace of our King through eternity—the gaze, the wonder, the delight of every holy intelligence. God has cast it into the Divine mold, has drawn upon it the image of his own Son with a brush dipped in heaven’s own colors—but it must pass through the furnace of affliction, thus to stamp completeness and eternity upon the whole.
Therefore, calmly rest in the hands of your Divine Craftsman. Do not ask for the extinguishing of a single spark until the holy work is completed. God may temper and soften—for he never withdraws his eye from the work for one moment—but your loss will be great if you lose the affliction unsanctified!
Oh! If only we could more clearly see God’s reason and the design in sending the chastisement, all marvel would cease, all murmuring would be hushed, and not a painful dispensation of our Father would afford us needless trouble.
David’s pen never wrote more sweetly than when dipped in the ink of affliction. And never did his harp send forth deeper, richer melodies than when the breath of sadness swept its strings. This has been the uniform testimony of the saints of God in every age. “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Ps. 119:71). “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your Word” (Ps. 119:67).
Learn to see a Father’s hand—yes, a Father’s heart—in every affliction. It is not a vindictive enemy who is chastening you; it is a loving Friend. It is not an unfeeling stranger, but a tender Father, who, though he may cast you down in the dust, will never cast you away from his love.
The Captain of your salvation—himself made perfect through suffering—only designs your higher spiritual promotion in his army, by each sanctified affliction sent. You are on your way to the mansion prepared for you by the Savior, to the kingdom bestowed upon you by God. The journey is short, and time is fleeting. Even though the cross is heavy and the path is rough, you do not have far or long to carry it. Let the deep-drawn sigh be checked by the throb of gladness which this prospect should create.
“He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever” (Ps. 103:9). The wind will not always moan. The waters will not always be turbulent. The dull fog will not float forever along the sky, nor will the sunbeams be forever wreathed in darkness. Your Father’s love will not always speak in muffled tones, nor will your Savior hide himself forever behind the wall or within the lattice. That wind will yet breathe music. Those waters will yet be still. That fog will yet evaporate. That sun will yet break forth. Your Father’s love will speak again in unmuffled strains. And your Savior will manifest himself without a veil.
Pensive child of sorrow! Weary pilgrim of grief! Timid, yet prayerful; doubting, yet hoping; guilty, yet penitent; laying your hand on the Head of the great appointed Sacrifice, you look up with tears, confessing your sin, and pleading in faith the blood of sprinkling. Oh, rejoice that this painful travail of soul is only the Spirit’s preparation for the seat awaiting you in the upper temple where the days of your mourning will be ended. You may carry the cross to the last step of the journey—weeping even up to heaven’s gate—but there you shall lay that cross down and the last bitter tear shall there be wiped away forever!
Truly we may exclaim, “Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law” (Ps. 94:12).
Octavius Winslow, 1856 from Morning Thoughts