My mom was a lover of sitcoms. Throughout the years, we spent many happy times together in front of the television, entertained by shows designed to help viewers find humor in the everyday stuff of life. One of Mom's favorite programs was Golden Girls, which centered around the lives of Rose, Blanche, Dorothy, and Sophia - four widowed "seniors" living together in Miami. These golden girls were aging gracefully, and discovering along the way that joy and laughter can be experienced even in the midst of life's difficult moments.
Each week, the show's creators and authors wove tales of these four characters wrestling with some sort of life predicament, their distinctive personalities on display as they grappled: Rose, innocent and optimistic; Blanche, bodacious and flirtatious; Dorothy, skeptical and sarcastic; Sophia, wise and witty. By show's end, these golden girls had endured and emerged from their hardship no worse for the wear; on the contrary, the challenge they'd faced and ultimately overcome had appeared to refine them. Although a work of fiction, shows like Golden Girls taught me an important lesson: In this world, troubles will surely come; I can allow those troubles to either define or refine me.
But what is refinement? In ancient times, the process of refining gold and silver began when the refiner broke large rocks into smaller pieces, revealing the tiny bits of gold and silver hiding within them. Next, the refiner placed those precious bits of silver and gold into a crucible and set them over a fire. As the heat intensified, impurities like dross either burned away or were skimmed off by the refiner. In time, all that remained would be the purest silver and gold, so shiny and bright that the refiner could actually see his reflection in the precious metals.
Author Robin Bertram likens this process of refining precious metals to God's process of sanctifying His children, and observes: "God sees Himself in the eyes of the refined soul." On the subject of refinement, the Bible says this:
"In the same way that gold and silver are refined by fire, the Lord purifies your heart by the tests and trials of life." (Proverbs 17:3, TPT)
"So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world." (1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT)
God, my Creator and the Author of my life, permits hardships to invade my world that I might be purified and refined... that my faith might be strengthened... that, with each fiery test, God might see more of Himself in me. Life's hardships can become either impediments that stifle my growth, or catalysts that propel me toward the kind of transformation which leads to a deeper and more beautiful relationship with God.
In his book, Fresh Faith: What Happens When Real Faith Ignites God's People, author Jim Cymbala speaks of refinement in this way:
“He is refining us. He is teaching us to trust him. He is drawing us away from our strength to his. He knows exactly how much heat to allow in our lives. He will never scorch us, but if we jump out of one cauldron because it's too hot, he has others waiting. The dross must be removed.
Do you know how the ancient refiner knew when he was finished, and the heat could finally be turned down? It was when he looked into the cauldron and saw his own reflection in the shining silver. As long as the image was muddy and rippled with flecks of slag, he knew he had to keep working. When his face finally showed clearly, the silver had been purified.
This is exactly how it is with our spiritual refining process. God's eternal plan is for us 'to be conformed to the likeness of his Son' (Romans 8:29). Jesus Christ continues today as the Refiner and Purifier of his people. As he carefully works on our lives, he keeps looking into us to see his own blessed reflection.
Shall we not trust Christ and surrender to this process, rather than fighting it? Remember that it is a process of love to bring beauty and growth and enlargement in our lives. It is God's way of sanctifying us. And we must never forget that the holier the life, the more true happiness we experience within. It is the spiritual impurities that rob us of God's best.”
As I consider my deepest desires, atop that list is a longing to glorify God by becoming more like Him each day. But I cannot accomplish that goal on my own. Such a metamorphosis can be achieved only when I surrender myself to God's care, trusting in His love and good plans for me. So when the next hardship of this life comes my way, I am going to remember my sweet momma and those wacky golden girls. I will envision God situated right beside me, inspiring me through the process of refinement intended to bring "beauty, growth and enlargement" into my life. And I'll picture Jesus Christ, my Purifier and Refiner, bending low to whisper this word of encouragement:
"Be golden, girl!"