A Process - Brooke Harding
When people ask me what the Fellowship program is, I almost always respond with, “It’s a refinement program!” I have said this phrase since before the Fellowship began, but until recently, I never sat with the Lord to understand what it means to be refined in Him and what that process looks like.
I was so excited to be a part of Fellows class XVII. I anticipated the start of this program for months and months. The day of, I was exhilarated to drive through the gates of Sky Ranch, meet new people, see the house I got to live in with SEVEN! NEW! FRIENDS!
Man. And this was just day one? I couldn’t wait to see what other wonderful things the Lord had in store for me as the program continued. I had it decided in my brain- “I’m gonna learn more about the bible, learn more about biblical community, become stronger in my faith.” I even wrote for my fellowship website profile that I wanted to gain, “Community, wisdom, and a deeper understanding of God’s word.” Sounded biblical and God- honoring to me! Check and check! I was ready for wisdom, knowledge, and community to start rolling in.
So, imagine my surprise when things got hard.
My physical health began to decline, I was frustrated with parts of my job that I felt I couldn’t do well, I was discouraged with the parts of the bible and of God that I couldn’t quite wrap may brain around, and I was homesick- an absolute first for me. The enemy’s lies were loud in my heart.
“You shouldn’t be here.”
“You’re not good enough for this.”
“Just give up.”
“Why are things hard?” I thought to myself often. I had made incredible friendships and enjoyed my job, I was in the Word more than I ever had been, but things were still hard. Why?
So, here’s the thing. It’s refinement. And there is often no refinement without difficulty.
In Isaiah chapter 48, The Lord invited the Israelites to turn away from their stubbornness and turn towards Him. Verse ten states, “I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.”
We also learn about refinement in James chapter one: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”
We as believers are gifted with the opportunity to grow through our sufferings and trials- the Lord promises us peace and steadfastness and perseverance! The bible states that we are refined like gold.
Y’all know how gold is refined? Through heat and pressure and heat and pressure and - you guessed it - more heat and pressure. This process is long and tedious, and it brings impurities to the surface.
Sometimes in our prideful “I know best, and I want this” minds, we want God to be a fix-it God who just snaps His fingers and fixes our problems. But God loves us too much for that. He wants us to grow and learn and see Him in all that we endure.
I recently read the article “God Uses Heat to Refine Us, Show His Reflection in Us.” Mike Goeke, the writer, describes refinement beautifully by saying, “God loves us too much to leave us as we are because our impure selves cannot reflect clearly all of who he is, and our fullest joy is realized in the growing brilliance of our reflection of him in our lives.”
To understand - or better yet - welcome in refinement, we must humble ourselves knowing that God knows far more than we ever will, and trust that all things are worked out for good for those who love Him.
As the first half of the fellowship grew to an end, I began to understand more of this refinement process. The Lord gave me the perspective to see that difficult doesn’t mean bad and hard doesn’t mean inferior. He gave me the perspective to see the fruits of the difficulties I endured and the glory it gave to Him. He gave me the encouragement to continue to press on in learning about Him even when I feel discouraged by confusion or tough questions.
How blessed we are by the Lord Jesus Christ that He delights enough so much as to lead us in a process to grow in understanding and a fullness of joy in Him.
Thank you, God, for the gift of refinement.