Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).
Two years ago, we traveled to Bar Harbor in Maine for our fall vacation. One of the things we enjoyed along the coast was the beautiful granite. An informative sign read as follows: “The colors and textures of the rocks around you tell a story of heat, pressure, and time that formed this landscape. These rocks started as massive pools of molten magma deep below the earth’s surface. As this liquid rock cooled into granite, it cracked, allowing newer magma with a different mix of minerals to intrude along the fractures. As upper layers of bedrock eroded, pink granite striped with dark diabase was exposed.”
At the time, I was counseling a woman who was undergoing fiery trials of a kind that many of us will never experience. Terrible heat; terrible pressure. At times, it seemed like too much to bear. I thought about this dear friend as I looked at the rocks all around me. There was a beauty to these rocks, but it was a beauty born of heat, pressure, and time.
The granite was a picture of what I saw in my friend’s life. There was a beauty about her, even in the midst of trials. What was the beauty? It was the beauty of watching her trust Christ, her suffering savior, the one who could truly sympathize with her suffering. It was the beauty of watching her cling to God’s character and promises, despite the heat and the pressure. It was the beauty of watching her apply in a laser-focused way everything she had ever learned about the Lord. It was a process that took time; that is taking time.
Seeing those rocks and thinking of my friend reminded me of 1 Peter 1:3-9:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Where are you feeling the heat in your life today? Where do you feel pressed? Perhaps you, like the psalmist, are asking, “How long, Lord?”
When God was doing his creative work of forming granite, there was heat and pressure. Hot, molten magma. And yet, today, one walks along the rocks and marvels at the beauty of pink granite with black stripes woven throughout. How beautiful! Such is our life with Christ. The heat and pressure are so difficult. What is he doing? How long must we suffer or struggle? How long must we wait?
We may not know why. We may not know how long. Such things belong to our sovereign, incomprehensible God. But we do know much! He has given us the knowledge of his character and the surety of the promises found in his Word.
We can focus on what we know, rather than what we don’t know. We are free to think about how we are being formed into something beautiful. The heat is intense. The pressure is hard. But our lives are guided by the hand of the one who knows what will become of each and every situation we endure, and what will become of us. Despite the intensity of the here and now, he makes everything beautiful in its time.