For the past two months I’ve been busy, unbelievably busy, ridiculously busy. I know how it began, I hope I know how it will end, but what I don’t know is when it will end. It all began with a prompting, I believe from God, to read 1 Peter - the first letter or epistle attributed to Peter in the New Testament. In 1 Peter chapter 1, verses 6 and 7 we read:
1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 1:7 that the genuineness of your faith, [being] much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ
And when I read that I realised my faith can be a shallow fickle thing. That it could be a faith of convenience - but is it a faith that will be found to praise, honour and glory Jesus when he returns? And so at the end of September I prayed. I prayed that my faith would be tested by trials. And Peter talks about this process of testing - that heat will be applied, and the crap (more correctly “dross”) would rise to the surface so it can be skimmed off. That my faith, in the analogy of gold, may be purified by the application of heat. And what is heat? Difficulties, trials, challenges, situations that stretch and annoy and apply pressure.
And I’ve had plenty of those in the past two months. The first type of pressure or trial has been time - that I’ve had many more things to do than I could reasonably or even possibly do well in the time allowed. The main reason for that is that I’ve been acting in my boss’s role at the same time as doing my usual job for those couple of months. And then there has been the types of tasks - travel, dealing with people and situations that I haven’t had to deal with in the past, and there has been the mounting to do list where I tackle a few items and then more come to be added to the list; and there have been my work colleagues who have come into my office with a problem and seem to want to leave the problem in my office (see https://hbr.org/1999/11/management-time-whos-got-the-monkey for more on this). But these things haven’t just been around my workplace. At home I’ve had to deal with financial matters for my family and also my parents for whom I have power of attorney, and tax returns for all and sundry. And there has been church activity; and different types of ministry training and travel requirements. On top of that was the illness, death and funeral of my father in the past few weeks (don’t hear me wrong on this - I’m not saying God took my father to teach me a lesson).
So there has been plenty of heat being applied so I can see what is really important in my life and how that manifests under heat. As heat is applied to someone - when pressure is applied - they tend to “revert to type”. If we tend to get cranky when we’re under pressure then we’ll be crankier more than we usually are. If we tend to whine when heat is applied then we’ll be whinier than usual. If we tend to bulldoze over people when under pressure then we’ll be in bulldozer-mode much more than usual. So the heat, the pressure is applied by events and situations to show us what is in our hearts.
But that is not only so we can be a personal “show and tell” program. The idea is that we recognise that Jesus is able to help. We see this in Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all [you] who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke [is] easy and My burden is light.” I don’t want to turn this post into an analysis of Jesus’ words here, but I think He’s saying (amongst many things) that we don’t need to carry the burdens we’ve been given. We can swap them for another - one that Jesus gives but one that is easy and light.
Talking with my wife the other day I said I could relatively easily drop some of the things that have been weighing me down, but I didn’t feel that would be the right course of action. These things won’t last forever but the changes that can be wrought in my life as a result can last forever. That certainly doesn’t mean I’m enjoying the heat and the pressure, but I can see that it can purify my faith as the dross is removed.
But what of that gold and the dross? There’s still plenty of dross to be heated, burned and skimmed off, but I can see more gold.