When you get a group of friends together, there are bound to be disagreements over where to eat or what movie to see.
“I just ate Italian for lunch.”
“Sorry, I saw that movie last weekend.”
And while everyone else is fussing, my friend Tyler is the guy who quietly waits for a resolution. He’s always patient and composed. Seriously, he’s as lovable as a golden retriever.
But this past year has been especially hard on Tyler.
His father’s health has been in decline to the point that his dad had to have an open-heart quadruple bypass surgery.
Shortly after his father’s operation, Tyler had a scary sleepwalking incident. Jolted awake by his phone ringing, he found himself wandering along the side of the road somewhere.
Next, his father told Tyler he was moving out of the house and was considering leaving his mom.
And then Tyler began having seizures at work.
Suicidal thoughts followed. Tyler admitted himself into the psychiatric ward.
A few days later, Tyler was released from the hospital. I got in touch to see if he wanted to grab dinner. He texted back: “Well, I just got in a wreck so I gotta deal with that first. Meet up at 6?”
There’s a great deal of talk in the Bible about the value of hardships. Take Isaiah 48:10 for example. “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.” That sounds a bit like a medieval form of torture. It’s enough to make people think Christians are a bunch of masochists.
But Charles Spurgeon says, “If you were nothing but tin, there would be no need of the ‘refining-pot’ for you; but it is simply because you are valuable that you must be tried.”
Scraps and throwaway objects don’t endure the painstaking process of purification by fire. However, if something is valuable, then it’s worth the time and attention required to purify it of the dross. It might seem contrary to all logic, but the furnace is a sign that we are treasured, that we are worth the time.
Spurgeon goes on: “You never saw a precious thing which did not have a trial. The diamond must be cut; and hard cutting that poor jewel has. … Gold, too, must be tried; it must pass through the crucible. … In fact all things that are of any value must endure the fire.”
I wouldn’t have blamed Tyler if he had decided to withdraw from the world for a spell. I would have understood if his knee-jerk reaction was to lash out and give the world the middle finger.
Instead, Tyler has come out on the other side. He even says he knows what he wants to do with his life. I met up with him for dinner the night he wrecked his truck and he shared with me his hope to someday earn his master’s degree in counselling. Through the pain — or, perhaps, as a result of the pain — Tyler has resolved to use his experiences to lead others through the hurt and hardships he has grown so familiar with.
Tyler is walking out of the furnace. And the change is dramatic.
He has taken to encouraging us, his friends, with text messages like this one: “There’s nothing more beautiful than the thought that life is worth living. It hits you like a bolt of lightening and forces you to stand in awe and wonder at the very idea of breathing and experiencing what is in front of you.”
It’s difficult to swallow this idea that hardships are something to be thankful for. (“Well, God, if this is a gift, then you can keep it.”)
Some people like Tyler feel pummelled and thrashed by adversity, as if tossed in a violent sea. Feeling powerless, held beneath the undertow, and moments away from the breaking point.
Some would say God wanted all of this to happen. There are others who claim God didn’t want anyone to experience pain. I won’t claim to know what on earth God is thinking, but I will tell you that I have a friend named Tyler who has shown me that God can use the fire to do something beautiful.
Photo by Courtney Nash