Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Refining Fire of Affliction


It was what we still call our horrible year, the year when virtually everything that could go wrong went wrong.

1987.

It’s still hard to talk about it.

On a Saturday in early March, I had gone out on an errand, likely the local hardware store. It was a lengthy errand; I was home in with an hour. When I arrived, I found our next door neighbor  sitting with my crying wife. The call had come from New Orleans – my father had had a stroke. I was able to get a flight that evening, but the plane was late leaving, the connection was missed in Memphis, the airline got me to Baton Rouge and arranged for a taxi to take me to New Orleans (airlines did things like that back then).

Within 24 hours, the family had told the doctors to remove from father from the machines keeping him alive. He left behind him a business that was a mess, and I was the executor of the estate. I stayed there a week, returned home, and then we drove down two weeks later. Mess had to be taken care of for months.

In June, the church we were attending erupted, largely because of an ill-designed building program. I was an elder, and had raised questions about what was planned, making a lot of people angry (things aren’t easy when you’re on the losing end of a 14 to 2 vote). I ended up resigning from the elder board. While it caused an uproar and harmed several relationships, the uproar did eventually result in structural problems coming to light, problems that would have likely bankrupted the church had the building program gone forward.

Then in October, work blew up, politics of the kind that was so naked and obvious that the entire organization I was working in was upended. I had been working almost feverishly for four years, only to see the wrong person get an unexpected promotion a few months into the job. I left the division, even after being offered “anything I wanted,” including a promotion, to stay. But the situation was broken, and it was time to leave.

Father, church, career. My world had turned upside down in six months. And my wife was pregnant with your youngest, who was born that December.

It’s easy to write and talk about the refining fire of affliction. It is another thing altogether to love it. Christians know there is always a point; we also know that it may be years before we understand what the point was.

In The Fire of Delayed Answers, Bob Sorge says this in answer to the question, why does God allow affliction? “In His mercy, He allows other fires to put the heat on our lives: financial stress, physical distress,…family distress. Without the heat, so often our love grows cold.”

That sound likes a one-sided answer, one that would likely not offer much comfort to someone suffering a serious affliction, at least while they were experiencing it.

But, in retrospect, that’s what happened with us in 1987 (and some years before and after that, too). We came out of that year changed, but during that year it often seemed that all we could do was hold on. Just hold on.

I think that was the point, too. Just to hold on, hold on to our faith.

And today I can talk with people who lose loved ones, experience job upheaval, and see their churches blow up, and can empathize in a way someone who hasn’t experienced those things simply can’t.


Led by Jason Stayszsen and Sarah Salter, we’ve started reading The Fire of Delayed Answers. To see others’ comments, please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact and Sarah at Living Between the Lines.


Photograph by Junior Libby via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission. 

7 comments:

jasonS said...

You hit such an important point: those who have been comforted in those terrible situations are able to turn around and offer comfort to others in a different way. None of us like to go through these things, but holding on and trusting God in the midst of it is rewarded and honored by Him. Job didn't go through the fire because God was mad but because God was impressed with him. Incredible when we think about it. Great post, Glynn. Thank you.

Rick Dawson said...

So much good stuff here, Glynn - I've gone through a lot of the same type of stuff (at this age, it would be hard for that to not be true :) ) - and I appreciate your take on it all.

Joell said...

The quote about love growing cold without the heat really struck me too...and you are right, it is not what you want to hear in the middle of your trials. But it is Truth. And on the other side of it, you know it to be true.

And the holding on? I get that. Sometimes that is all you can do. I am so thankful that He brought you through and is using you now to minister to others.

elisabethadams said...

This book was cold, cold water at a very dry time in my life! I wrote about it in an article called "Don't Waste Your Disappointment" which was about a puzzling breakup, and (most miserable of all) God's silence throughout the experience. The fact that Bob Sorge wrote from the middle of the fire made him feel safe, I think. He got what it felt like...AND offered hope, and a comforting glimmer of understanding.

shara nelson said...

Great post. My husband and I are going through a season like this and I know the Lord is allowing it to refine and grow...still not fun - miserable actually. So glad he is a good and faithful God. I actually just wrote a blog about God's sovereignty and after I wrote it, it clicked that what I wrote is what I needed to be reminded of. lol You can read it if you want - http://10-talents.blogspot.com/2013/09/i-believe-in-complete-sovereignty-of-god.html

Have a blessed day! Thanks for being transparent!

H. Gillham said...

The beauty is in the fire, but it's hard to see.

Good word here.

Thanks.

TC Avey said...

The fire changes us.

I've gone through some fires I wouldn't wish on anyone, but those experiences have enabled me to help others who are walking down similar paths.

God uses our pain for His glory when we allow Him too.

Great post. Really enjoying reading all the post from this chapter and hope to share some thoughts of my own in future chapters. God bless.