Working in our garden is one of the most rewarding things we do; to see the seeds or plants that you put into the soil growing strong and healthy makes us very happy. But, there are times when you see your plants struggling to survive and to thrive. For three years we had in one of our raised garden beds green scallions. They’ve done very well in the first two years. However, something was terribly wrong with them this year. We had never seen them look so bad before. With further inspection of the scallions we could see that aphids had completely covered most every one of the scallions. We tried every natural way to get the aphids off the scallions, but nothing worked. The only thing we could do was to dig them all up and burn them. And that’s what we did. Vernon put the scallions on a dirt pile and set them on fire. Actually, he torched them with a propane torch! I thought to myself, “I can plant more”.
Not only did he burn the scallions he had to burn the soil they were planted in. They were completely gone. There was nothing left. Two weeks later we noticed something on the dirt pile where we burned the scallions. The scallions had come back! Every one of them had come back. They were strong and healthy looking. So, we took them off the dirt pile and planted them back in their old, torched raised garden bed. We have never had scallions look so beautiful before. All of them looked so beautiful, so healthy. Now, you know I always look for the spiritual lessons in everything we do on KST Ministries Farm, because there are so many lessons to learn every day.
I doubt any of us would willingly submit to the cleansing fire that God leads us through, sometimes, and ask to have the heat turned up so high that our impurities are burned off. Yet, that is one of the ways God, the Refiner, purifies us.
As we walk through the trials of life, God often uses those very difficult and trying times, those times that feel like we’re going through the fire, to refine us. Sometimes the thing that holds you back are the nagging reminders of our past sins, doubt, unpleasant experiences, uncertainty, self-focus, etc. I guess you could say that the aphids on the scallions were like these things that hold you back; they cling to you too tightly to scrub off, even through prayer. Remember no matter what I did I could not get those aphids off. Often you don’t notice or want to admit you are in need of further cleansing, purging, and purifying. It’s not until you’re in the fire of yet another of life’s trials that you see God working on an area of your life in need of cleansing. Maybe you’re facing medical challenges for yourself, or of a loved one. God may use that to work on your trust, or your patience and compassion. Or, maybe you’re in a difficult situation at work. Is God using that challenge to reset your priorities and focus? “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10).
The purest and most valuable gold and silver were refined at the hottest temperatures to remove all their impurities. Once the impurities were removed, the refiner would continue heating, watching for the molten metal to become shiny and reflective, until he could see his own reflection. Have you been put through the refining fire; have you felt God burning away the dross of sin and doubt in your heart? Burning through all the layers of coverings you’ve tried to hide under, and showing you the precious treasures hidden beneath? Has God heated the fires around you to hotter temperatures to cleanse your character and burn away the impurities? You will go through fires in your life and it will feel hot, consuming, and at times out of control. Remember, God is the refiner, and is watching the process carefully to make sure you aren’t consumed by the fire. He’s watching for his image to begin to reflect from you and then he’ll remove you from the fire. Isn’t that a comforting thought, even when the fire is raging? “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)
We were so sure the scallions were totally gone. But the part we could not see were the roots deep in the soil. The roots were not consumed even though the fire was raging, the roots were protected.
The fires of life are often such that you either mold your faith more firmly, or you drift away from God. Trials tend to bring you to a decision point. Will you trust God in this moment, come what may? Or, will you walk away in disbelief? Will you turn your eyes to God and trust that He’s in the fire with you and will lead you through it to the other side?
Where do you turn when life gets tough? Do you start Googling for answers? Post on Facebook to ask for advice? Do you start putting together your own solutions? Or, do you turn first to God in prayer?
This is a time to lean most fervently with all your heart into prayer, and cling to God’s promises. Ask others to pray. But, also commit yourself to persistent prayer, and keep your eyes turned toward God. Even when you don’t know what to pray, or can’t form the words, stay close to God, and allow the Holy Spirit to intercede for you. Pray, “Lord, I don’t know what to pray, but I need you, now.”
I don’t choose to enter the “self-cleaning” cycle with God, because God is the only one who can light this fire of cleansing. The fires are hot and difficult and not a path I’d choose to walk. Yet, in this life we will face trials and, oh, how I’ve experienced many of them. I watched God work through those trials on my behalf until I was on the other side of them. In hindsight, I can see the work God’s been able to accomplish, even when I wasn’t a willing participant, but, how much more He’s been able to do when I submitted to the process.
So, the next time you find yourself covered in aphids in yet another of life’s trials, look for God, and let Him carry you through the fire, and know He’s there with you. Ask yourself what cleansing you need as you walk through this fire. Then, keep your eyes firmly fixed on God, and trust him to lead you through the fire to stand beautiful, healthy, and strong in Him.