In the Book of Mormon are many accounts of people suffering “great afflictions” and “persecutions”. Similarly, we are constantly bombarded by news from all over the world about tragedy, natural disasters and people’s sufferings. Pain, trial and difficulty seem to be constants in our individual lives too. It is inevitable that we sometimes wonder why the Lord would allow such things to happen to His children.
One of the most profound allegories I have found in the scriptures has always been the refiner’s fire. Throughout my early youth, the image of the Lord being my Refiner has shaped my perspective about life’s most difficult trials, and the good that can come from it.
The Refiner’s Fire
In the allegory of the refiner’s fire, a piece of rough ore- a rock encased with minerals- naturally contains impurities. However, with those impurities, it also carries within it precious metals such as silver and gold. For the refiner to create something out of that piece of ore, he needs to begin the refining process by breaking the ore with a heavy hammer. The ore then must be exposed to the refiner’s fire, with temperatures as high as 900-1000 degrees Celsius, in order to burn away the impurities and reveal the precious metal inside.
Parallel to the hammering and exposure to extreme temperatures, God refines us by allowing us to go through painful trials and difficulties. One might think, “What is the purpose of letting His children suffer if He truly loves us?”
This allegory is meant to help us understand the purpose beyond our pain- to ultimately rid us of our weaknesses and let our faith and strength flourish. We must realize that it is part of His plan, and prepares us for our eternal destiny.
We have been taught by Elder James E. Faust that, “In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through the refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact, and strong.”
Heat Beyond What We Can Bear
No one is exempt from passing through the refiner’s fire. Times of anguish, sorrow, and painful heartbreak come to everyone, including those who are faithful and seeking to do the right things. For some, their afflictions might seem like punishment. Yes, some of our hardest afflictions in life are results of our own foolishness and mistakes. Even so, President Joseph F. Smith reasoned, “It is a feeble thought to believe that the illness and affliction that come to us are attributable either to the mercy or the displeasure of God.”
But when we feel the crushing impact of the hammer in our lives and the heat seems turned up beyond what we think we can bear, we need not feel as though we are being punished. He allows trials into our lives that we might “rise above them, [and gives us] responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, [and] sorrows to try our souls.”
The heat is never about destroying you, it is about shaping you into what He knows you can become. Through the “furnace of affliction”, the Master Refiner orchestrates His marvelous plan to turn you into something beautiful. As Brad Wilcox said, “God would not put you through the refiner’s fire, if you were not worth refining.”
Stronger After the Fire
He trusts us to brave the grueling heat of the fire. He would not turn up the heat to temperatures He knows we can’t bear. For some, going through such difficulty can cause their faith to deteriorate or cause them to lose their belief in God. But if we shape our perspective into one that is eternal we may come to comprehend that the refiner’s fire is to strengthen us. It is part of our road to perfection-eventually.
We can find the good in the trials that come into our lives. With that, we hang onto hope, and trust in the Master Refiner’s perfect plan. Most importantly, however, we persevere in faith.