The Refiner's Fire

A couple of dear friends and I discovered a wonderful resource to motivate us to clean our homes & hearts. The book is "31 Days to Clean: Having a Martha House the Mary Way." The second part of the title is an allusion to the story of sisters Mary & Martha (see Luke 10:38-42). 

Each day there is a "Martha Challenge" - a house-cleaning task. There is also a "Mary Challenge" - a heart-cleaning task. Today's Martha Challenge was to clean and organize the kitchen drawers. It took about 15 minutes, but the drawers are less frightening to open now. :)

The Mary Challenge was this: Think back to a time when God refined your character through difficult circumstances. Write it down and thank Him for His faithfulness.

And so, here I am, reflecting and writing it down. We are encouraged throughout Scripture to share what the Lord has done in our lives - so please allow me to declare the mighty works the Lord has wrought in my heart over the past couple of years. It is a privilege - yes, a privilege! - to have walked through trials. It has allowed my God to soften my heart and mold me to the image of His Son! May He continue to refine through tribulation, as only He can do!

Two years ago, we were excitedly expecting our third baby. We had not planned this little one, but most assuredly the Lord had from before the foundation of the world! No matter how many times I get to experience pregnancy, I don't think I will ever get over awesomeness of the idea that there is a brand new life being created and that I get to assist in such a grand miracle!

On Will's birthday, we had plans to celebrate somehow (I don't quite remember what. Dinner, perhaps?), but I hadn't been feeling very well throughout the morning. And the cramps began. And the spotting. So the call to the doctor went out, and the suggestion was to rest and put my feet up. I did; it didn't alleviate the aching but the bleeding slowed down. We had to forego the celebration for a quiet night in with the girls. Then next morning (Sunday) came, with more intense cramping and bleeding. Another call in to the doctor; he suggested I take it really easy all day and make an appointment for Monday morning, but that the baby was probably gone. I remember that we sent the girls to my parents' house for a while and Will and I sat together and grieved. 

Monday morning, I did not make it to the OB's office before we actually lost the baby. I ached. My body ached, as did my heart. My spirit ached. I was confused; I felt spiritually violated. How could it be that the God who loved me so dearly would allow this kind of test? Ever since we found out that we were expecting Elizabeth, one of the deepest prayers of my heart had been that God would never, ever test my devotion to Him by 'tampering' with my children. My attitude since I first held my precious daughter was that He could have any other area of my life except the baby whose life had been forged in my womb. In whom I had invested time, energy, food, training, and everything that goes along with parenting. 

At that moment in time, I had a radical choice to make. Either I needed to acknowledge that the Lord was Lord over every single area of my life - including the life and death of my children - or I needed to walk away from Him and reject His love, grace, kindness, mercy, justice, and sacrifice. Did this trial show that God was unfair? 

I spent many mornings holed up in our bedroom, on my knees, audibly crying out to the Lord. I searched the Psalms for comfort. I needed to know that this grief, this aching, this death had not been without a purpose. I leaned hard on Romans 8:26-28:

[Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.]

I chose God. I chose to follow Him through the valley of the shadow of death [Psalm 23]. I chose to cling desperately to Him [Psalm 63:8]. I chose to trust that His ways are higher than my ways [Isaiah 55:9]. I did not allow my heart to become hard towards Him; I did not allow myself to 'blame' God in anger for the end of my baby's life. Job 1:21 states that the LORD gives, and the LORD takes away; regardless, His name is still blessed! He who created life has every right to then take it back when He does; it is not unfair.

And with a soft heart, and the magnitude of grace that He extended to me, He allowed me to see how He was working in the hearts of those around us who were walking this road of grief alongside us. We know that not everyone we love believes that they are wretched and that Jesus died to redeem them. We know that some of the people we interact with daily have outrightly rejected God and the Bible. And yet, He let us be a part of His story and the softening He was doing in their hearts as well. I eventually was able to pray - and mean it - that God would use our pain and our grief to show other people just how good God truly is. 

Since then, we have walked through other trials. Our marriage and family life, though a committed one, is not always pleasant - we are two big sinners who share a home with three other little sinners. There are sometimes arguements. Pride seeps in and destroys peace some days. We are trying to manage our budget without "enough" money coming (even though we have never lacked for true needs). And as we come to each trial, He gives enough grace for us to know that through the storm, He will be using it for our good and His glory. We have weathered the loss of a child - what I thought would be the worst thing to ever happen to me - and He has used it to make me understand a little more deeply the suffering of my Lord and to become a little bit more like Him.

I have since realized how grateful I am for the work that God did in my heart through that journey. And the journey is not over - it still hurts some days. I still grieve. He is continually refining. And He will continue to until He calls me home to Himself!

Oh, give thanks to the LORD!
Call upon His name;
make known His deeds
among the peoples.
[Psalm 105:1]

I expect it to be said that I am crazy for what I believe; may it never be said of me that I ever denied the lordship of Jesus Christ or the power that He has to redeem, restore, and refine a wretched heart like mine.

By His grace, and for His glory!

I may be sharing this over at these encouraging Link-up parties!
{If this has encouraged, blessed, or inspired you, please comment or share with friends!}


  1. Oh, I understand that heartache... we have seven beautiful children (#8 due in January)... but have suffered ten losses over the years. It is so hard to go through the refining fires. Right now we are going through a different type of refining fire... can't say I like it any better than the other kind. It's nice to have the reminder that through it all, it's all in God's hands...

    1. Thank you, thank you for sharing. The Lord is certainly using your story to show forth His love and draw those around you to Himself - I am so thankful that in His economy, no heartache is wasted, and that He works through us to comfort others with the same comfort He has given us in times of pain. I am praying right now for you as you look toward the last few months of your pregnancy, and for each of your dear children. :)

      Blessings to you and your family, Elisabeth!

  2. Wow this was so powerful and exactly what I needed today! God bless you and your family!

    1. I am so blessed by this, thank you for your encouragement!

      ~Lisha :)

  3. This is such a beautiful post! I am so sorry for your loss. I have experienced trials too and have had to make a choice at times to choose God. To acknowledge that I don't understand it all but I am going to continue to turn to my Saviour.
    Thanks for sharing at Essential Fridays.
    Mel from Essential Thing Devotions and Connect With God

    1. I'm glad that His ways are higher than ours, and that He works all things together for the good of those that love Him. Otherwise, I'd not be able to stand! And I'm grateful that He uses the pain to equip us to better minister to those around us :)

      He is a good God! Thank you for your faithfulness to read each post from the link-up :)