Suffering is an indispensable aid to divinity. I have come to accept struggle as something absolutely essential for being transformed for good and share my understanding of the most painful and yet mystically joyful process.

Aversion for suffering and love for a comfortable and trouble-free life are quite natural. But even worldly wisdom tells us that lasting comfort is gained only through suffering. The unwarranted association of every suffering with retribution is the real cause of most of our mental agony. ‘Why am I suffering for no fault of mine?’ is a very common complaint which we hear often. True, we do suffer many a time for no fault at all but how many of us realize and acknowledge the benefits of such suffering? Remission of sins is insufficient to enter Heaven. To be able to indwell with God, our very tendency to sin has to be purged completely and then we’ve got to bear good fruits in abundance. Our merciful God offers the option of escaping if not minimizing the far more painful process of purgation in the afterlife, to all those who cheerfully endure suffering in this earthly life.

Sufferings purge our vices and gain virtues. Salvific struggle is all about exchanging vices for virtues by enduring much suffering obediently. This truth was already revealed through the prophets:

  • I will refine them like silver and test them like gold (NIV Zech 13:9b).
  • He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver (NIV Mal 3:3a).

An anonymous author explains this parabolic analogy most beautifully: There was a group of women in a Bible study on the book of Malachi. As they were studying chapter three they came across verse three which says, "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." This verse puzzled the women and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study.

That week the woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest in silver beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that, in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest so as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot - then she thought again about the verse, that He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver. She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. For if the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's the easy part—when I see my image reflected in it."

If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep His hand on you and watch over you until He sees His image in you.