Between the hammer and the anvil

Hammer and Anvil
Blacksmith at work02” by User:Fir0002Own work. Licensed under GFDL 1.2 via Wikimedia Commons.

The blacksmith uses heat and force to transform the iron into the desired shape. The iron goes into the fire to be heated and is then moved to the anvil to be hammered into the desire form. The process is repeated until the smith is satisfied with the result.

This is a fitting analogy for how God uses trials to transform us into tools he can use to accomplish his purpose. The trials are like the heat that soften the metal and make it malleable, shapeable and transformable. The trials are not enjoyable but they are a necessary element in our spiritual progression.

Regarding trials, James tells us:

“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, ESV)

The hard part is that we are commanded to count it a joy when we encounter trials. To be happy about the difficulty would be disingenuous. The enjoyment of pain is considered a pathology. James is not suggesting that we find pain and difficulty pleasurable.

What he is commanding us to do is to look beyond the pain to the inevitable result. God uses the trial to build endurance into us which will then result in our spiritual completeness.

I understand that this is easier said than done. I’ve done more than my share of whining to God about different circumstances, many of which were beyond my ability to influence or control. But the difficulty does not relieve me of the responsibility to do it.

James does not here issue advice. He is not offering a suggestion. He is delivering a command. Reckon, count, consider are the words used by various translations. It speaks of an intentional direction of mind. It speaks of a choice to view the difficulty in a certain way.

Like the iron between the hammer and the anvil, we are being shaped by God and prepared for an eternity with him. Over this I can learn to be joyful.