Why do people often blame themselves for a painful loss or suffering even when they had no control over such events?
This lesson describes the effects of the crucible used in chemistry and engineering processes. It’s valued for its ability to create generous tremendous heat, to purify, separate, mix, and transform base metals and other elements.
Although the terms crucible or kiln or melting pot are not used in Genesis 4:22, the implication of Tubal-Cain as a metalworker in bronze and iron implies the use of such an instrument. The process of smelting and refining metal begins early in the Biblical text, and the spiritual lessons from the crucible become quickly obvious. The crucible involves heat and transformation. Everyone passes through some kind of fire, and we’ll explore in this lesson the origin of a number of these trials.
Crucibles as Surprises?
No letter in the New Testament speaks more about suffering than 1st Peter. The theme rings out in all five chapters. Peter himself knew the pain of both his own sin and weakness with the natural results, as well as the testing, persecution, and tribulation imposed on him by others because of his faith in Christ and fearless preaching about Jesus Christ.
The Variety of Crucibles
This week explores several ways in which trials come to us. Some are of our own making, others we have no control over, yet God can use for His glory and our benefit.
- 1 Peter 5:8-10 – Satan, the adversary of God and His people, is described as a hungry predator, seeking prey. Much is said in the gospels and other places in the New Testament about the power Satan can have over people through demon possession.
What is the role of Satan in our trials? To what degree does he have power to influence us? Are all of our temptations caused by him, or are we carried away with our own desires now without his help? How far does God let him go? Some say the devil is God’s “henchman”…
- Romans 1:21-32 – When people reject God as creator and Lord, He hands us over to the consequences of our choices. The record of sacred history in both testaments reveals the results of sin and the problems people face as a result. (take for instance Jesus’ words to the man healed at the pool of Bethesda in John 5) Betrayal, faithlessness, deceit, murder, loss, grief, slavery to addiction, and a host of other pains result from our sin.
How hard must it be for God to allow his children to make mistakes that bring pain, to us, to Himself, and even to His creation? Why doesn’t God just bring the consequences of our bad choice to an end? Can experiencing the full consequences of our sin play a role in repentance?
- Jeremiah 9:7-16: God uses trials as opportunities for our purification. This seems equivalent to our understanding of God disciplining us for our good (see Hebrews 12:1-11)
Some Christians are not comfortable talking about becoming “holy” or “pure” or “blameless.” Can we reconcile the process of purification through trial with our fear of “perfectionism?”
- 2 Corinthians 12:7-10: God gave Paul a “thorn in his flesh” to make his life more difficult. But it was intended to make Paul more reliant on God’s graciousness, and to bring him down a notch. The lesson said this was to produce maturity, but that seems quite akin to #3 above, where purification and maturity are similar.
Have you ever considered the trials of life to be sent from God specifically for your growth and benefit? We often seek an easy life without challenge, and we strive to make life better for others, at the same time. Can these efforts be working against God at times?
What can keep me from turning my back on God when He doesn’t remove painful trails, but instead asks us to trust in Him even more?
This quarter’s lesson begins to explain the reasons distressing situations arise: our own sin and choices, the work of evil/demonic forces, and the willingness of God to lead us into or permit such trials for our spiritual growth and development. We sometimes joke around with each other when going through hard times or tests that “it’s just character development,” but while said lightheartedly to bring humor, there is certainly truth in the statement, and perhaps it shouldn’t be overused in jest, as it could just undercut the very purpose of the trial.