Near Pierrepont there is a beautiful area of heathland known as Frensham Common. I was walking there recently with our dog and enjoying the fragrance and colour of the purple heather in full bloom and the vibrancy of the small gorse bushes, when God reminded me that only a few years earlier the area had been a scorched and blackened mess following a fire that had raged across it. It had seemed then as if all in its path had been destroyed, but only a short time later green shoots started to appear through the ash. Now the plants are strong and vibrant, better than they were before the fire. The fire had removed all the dead wood and straggly branches, but had left the roots which were then able to produce strong new growth.
The Lord spoke to me through this of the storms and fires that we may go through in life, which can seem disastrous at the time. God doesn't necessarily cause these to happen, but He is committed to work in all things for our good (Romans 8:28) and He can use situations to prune and refine us. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says that we may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, but that: ‘these have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed’.
In today’s verses James goes further and tells us to consider these difficult times as opportunities for great joy, as they bring opportunity for spiritual growth. Do we? If you feel as if you are going through the fire at the moment, be encouraged. God will never leave you nor forsake you, and He will be using this time to strengthen you and refine you. ‘Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us’ (Romans 5:3-5).
Prayer: Lord, help me to hold on to You through the difficult times, knowing that You are with me. Please use these times to strengthen me and to refine me, so that I become more like You. Amen.
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