Refined in the Furnace of Suffering

November 14, 2008

I am feeling disheartened today. When I opened my email this morning, I found the following, which seems to be speaking to me- I thought that I would share this, as we all suffer:

Furnace #1READ Isaiah 48:1-11  
“I have refined you, but not as silver is refined.
      Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.”
Isaiah 48:10
When life is easy, we tend to get caught up in trivialities: worrying about our appearance or passing on the latest gossip or boasting in our material possessions or . . . you name it. Often that which matters most gets ignored. We miss family gatherings so we can work a few extra hours. Or when we’re with our loved ones, we spend our time staring at the television. We spend less time with the Lord, skipping church or skimping on our devotions.

Suffering has a way of refocusing our minds and hearts.  When we’re in pain, be it physical, emotional, or relational, we stop caring about minutiae. Our hearts yearn for what truly matters: the love of family and friends, the assurance that life has meaning, and, above all, the presence and peace of God.

Thus God uses pain to refine us, burning away the dross of our life. When we’re in the furnace of suffering, we often wonder where God is and why he is letting us hurt. Yet, when we look back on the hard times of our lives, we can see how God used them for our good. This doesn’t mean we look forward to suffering, however. But it does mean that we can find in our pain the peace that comes from a deeper experience of God.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you known what it’s like to be in the furnace of suffering? How has pain helped you to grow in your relationship with God? What helps you to sense God’s presence when you’re hurting?

PRAYER: Gracious Lord, I must admit that I don’t like this notion of the furnace of suffering. Being refined by you is just fine. But when I think of the process of refining, especially the pain involved, I’m much less enthusiastic. How I wish there were an easier way for me to grow in grace and goodness!

Nevertheless, Lord, when I look back at my life, I can see how you have been at work in me during difficult times. I think of that wonderful verse of John Rippon in “How Firm a Foundation”:

    When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
    My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
    The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
    Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Thank you, gracious Father, for using the difficult times of my life for your advantage . . . and for mine. Thank you for making me more like you, in good times and especially in hard times. Amen.

Mark D. Roberts, as Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence for Laity Lodge, is an advisor and frequent contributor to A Presbyterian pastor, Mark earned his Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard University. He has written six books, including No Holds Barred: Wrestling with God in Prayer (WaterBrook, 2005). He blogs daily at


4 Responses to “Refined in the Furnace of Suffering”

  1. What you shared truly touched my inner soul as I am going through a very trying period of my life – especially when I am nearing the end of my working life. A fellow catholic cheated me of my whole life savings (USD1.3 million). The worst part is that I cannot tell my husband and son who are both not catholic – mine was a mixed marriage. I am turning 65 and being robbed of my whole life savings is really hard to bear. However, like Job I continue to thank our good Lord and by his grace I have not resorted to take revenge on her by storming to her office, etc. etc. She banged down the phone on me and refused return my calls. But when she asked for the money she was ever so sweet – telling me that I have the heart of Jesus and her guardian angel. It was like I am in a trance. I now surrender everything to our Lord – as vengeance is not mine but his and wait upon his way and his time. Even though I have nothing much now I am truly blessed – in the sense that the little that I have I still continue to bless those with nothing to show that our Lord is a loving an caring God and we are his tools. I have a very rich friend who clings on to her money – I always say to her and others that if everyone is closed fisted then who will be God’s instruments. We need not have to give great things – it is the little kind gestures that is more meaningful. Jeanne Jungan says it is so good to be poor and to be dependent on our good Lord. Thank you for your wonderful sharing – it confirms our Lord’s love for those who are down trodden but who continues to cling to his love. I am sharing this lovely message with my other e-mail friends. Have a truly blessed day and may our Lord use you mightily always. You can be assured I will visit your website every now and then. HE LOVES US SO VERY MUCH. Please pray for BRENDA MITILDA COX who cheated me that she will be repentant.

  2. Mary,
    I am so sorry to hear about your loss! That is terrible that your friend would do that to you! Well, I can only imagine that it was very difficult to not seek vengence on her. I will pray for her repentance, and for your finances and peace. Just give it all to God, is right!

  3. HeartMommy said


    This is one of the most powerful things I have read in my life! I am crying as I read it.
    My life has been one of interesting experiences and yes, many times I wondered why I would go through very difficult times, when it seemed others where not.
    Well, I was being refined through the furnace of suffering, so that I might use my own experiences to make the suffering less for others.
    My life’s work has just begun and I am thankful for each and everything that has come my way.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Nancy,
      I am so happy that this scripture reflection has touched you so much! It is very powerful, and really spoke to me, as well! I wanted to share an additional scripture with you, which reiterates what you said about using your own experiences, to make the suffering less for others. This is from

      Listen– Today, a message of hope for the hurting. Here’s what Paul had to say to some people that were suffering.

      2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (New Living Translation)

      3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7 We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

      Do you need a little prayer? Text your name to 313131 and we’ll pray for you. Or, go to and leave a comment.

      — 2 Corinthians 1:3-

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