It seems to me most of us, INCLUDING ME, respond to the issues we face in very similar ways -- our focus becomes all about changing the circumstances that are troubling us. Even our prayer life can be all about asking God to fix something to make our lives more pleasant. But while we think our efforts to change our circumstances will make our lives better, the truth is we just end up exhausted and no more at peace than when we started. Instead of working so hard to achieve a change in our circumstances, maybe what we need more is a change in our perspective.
Currently I am in South Dakota working at Sturgis. Many of you may be asking yourself "why in the world Jennifer, giving your history, are you at Sturgis, of all places, working?" Trust me, I asked myself this very question over and over and over and still yet I have been unable to come up with an answer that I feel is suitable to explain that. It was very simply given to me though, that I am being obedient to my leaders and I have a task to perform and a job to complete and that is why I am here. I've come to realize though that it is so much more than that. In my obedience, the Lord has been so very faithful to His Word about "testing" our hearts and our faith. It's really difficult to put somebody to the test when they are surrounded by people who are like-minded, wouldn't you agree? I thought I've been tried and tested but that was nothing compared to what I have experienced over the last week.
"The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the Lord tests the hearts."
--- Proverbs 17:3 NKJV
I have faithfully prayed and asked God to reveal to me the wickedness, the darkness, and any of the evil that may lie in my heart. I didn't realize how sinister that wickedness truly is. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?" And this is so very true. I have come to find that I'm not the compassionate, kind, and understanding person that I thought I was. I am actually pretty judgmental and I think I suffer from a little bit of the "holier-than-thou" disease. My mom calls it "log-in-the-eye" disease. It's been really easy to see everybody else's sin, especially here in Sturgis, as it is a direct reflection of the life that the Lord has delivered me from. Somewhere along the line I forgot about the compassion piece of it. I forgot that in order to be here in the midst of this dark place, God has to trust me enough to know that as I enter into this environment I am not going to fall back into what He delivered me from or shrink back. I don't believe God ever puts us to a test that we will fail. Yes, we have free will and we can choose, but testing??? That's different. God does not set us up to fail, He only sets us up to succeed.
For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined.
Psalms 66:10 NKJV
See, God uses heat to refine us and show His reflection in us. The Bible often uses the imagery of gold being refined as a picture of what God does in our lives. Gold, when extracted from the earth, does not look like gold we find in a jewelry store. In fact, it is not always recognizable due to the impurities that mar its appearance. Yet, for the person searching for it, the ugliest lump of gold is of great value, and the potential for beauty is evident. We, as men and women, are similar to those lumps of unrefined gold. The sacrifice of God's son to reconcile us back to relationship with God shows just how much he values us -- even while we are lost and separated from him. God sees us not full of impurity, but full of potential. He, in the refining imagery, is the Refiner and we are the lump of unrefined gold, full of impurity and full of potential beauty!
I will bring the one–third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; And each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’ ”
Zechariah 13:9 NKJV
After several days of frustration and confusion I finally reached out to my pastor and his wife. Over the course of two days they encouraged me and prayed for me and with me. And my pastor brought it all back to a very simple truth: "The race that is before you and me or any of us can be the hardest thing we have ever done. Jesus took what we deserve. I mean all the sin we've done is in the sea, and is remembered no more, and that's what He wants for all the world, that He died for. The world you are standing in today. That none should perish. I pray you see how strong you have become. A shiny star in a dark place. Look for one that is lost and then share the hope you have been given. You, knowing what its like can see the one that needs that. Let Jesus lead you like He always does. Please overcome, and do be overcome." (Yes these are his words).
Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.
Daniel 12:10 NKJV
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