Is this refining?

HopePushers-possession with intent to deliver

Chapter 41

Some difficult things have nothing to do with tests, temptations or trials. The reason we face them is that we need to learn something or expand our abilities to accomplish God’s purposes. God will not bail us out, or bail on us, but neither will He keep us from running away.

A very talented young baseball player with potential of being one of the best was having a difficult time with major league pitchers. A reporter asked his manager if he thought the player would play winter ball. The manager said, “It is his career. He’ll have to make that decision.”

Refining is about developing personality and character. It is about honing crafts and skills and putting luster on the treasure God placed in us. It may feel like severe testing, but God isn’t trying to see if you’ll break.8

Hebrews speaks of “testing” the Israelites in the Wilderness. Actually, I think the testing was over for that one generation. It was too late for them. The “testing” of those who would enter the Promised Land is better called preparation. God was building a people who could govern themselves, occupy a land and build distinctive families. I wonder who taught the adults who entered Canaan. If a person who has never been parented cannot parent, then those who failed the test in the Wilderness could not have been the tutors. Who taught whom? The good news for all of us is God does some direct teaching called “refining,” and appoints prophets to coach truth by revelation.

It is a bad assumption for me. When someone says they are sick, in pain or in trouble because God is trying to teach them something. I want to vehemently explain that God is not sadistic. He does not inflict hurt because He wants to. I try to explain that people are not held under microscopes while the Deity uses pins to attach us to a display board as if we were a moth.

Dr. Dan Allender was a visiting professor in John Eldredge’s graduate counseling class. Allender is one of the premier therapists in the Christian world. His books occupy space in my library. He said to the class that day,

“To help someone solve their problems without God is demonic. Pain is often where God is most at work in someone’s life, and it is often their pain which drives them to find God in ways they haven’t given a s—about before. To remove the pain, without them wrestling with God, is to work against Him in the situation.”

John Eldredge adds, “The abusive elder now on the brink of public divorce is forced to deal with his violence. The addict now reeling from bankruptcy is forced to deal with his emptiness. To shortcut the process by relieving the pain would be to shortcut the redemption of their souls.”

I like the phrase “Don’t come in from the desert experience too soon.” People tend to promise anything to escape the pain—bad situation, so how do we know? God does indeed do some of His best work with us while we are squirming in desert heat. How are our friends and sensitive tribe members to know when to come to our desert and help us home?

If it is your skin that is being parched and you are sensitive to God, then you will know when it is time—unless you are punishing yourself or a habitual masochistic type. You will know. Don’t come in “off the ledge” too soon.

Perhaps one of the first questions from the fire fight is to ask: What am I being taught? How will I know when I’ve learned? How do we measure refined? It is not God’s design that you become a sun-bleached skeleton in the Mohave. It is that you be formed into the likeness of His Son who spent 40 days in his own desert.

Copyright 2015 D. Dean Benton

From Dean’s ebook HopePushers to be published in August. This chapter is from Section 8–Talk Me In Off The Ledge.

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