During my days as a daycare mama, I became an expert at whipping up quintuple batches of play dough while juggling two babies and eight toddlers. The kiddos gathered around, eager to sink their chubby hands into the soft, warm dough. Their eyes sparkled and their little bodies wiggled as they waited (not-so-patiently!) for the dough to cool enough so they could play with it.
Whenever I made play dough, it struck me how much the process resembled the trials of life.
You see, you must cook the mixture of flour, oil, salt, baking powder and water for exactly the right amount of time. Leave it on the heat for too long, and it’s much too stiff and hard for little hands to mold. But if you cook it for too short a time, it’s a sticky mess—pretty much good for nothing.
And so it is with the trials of life. Deep down inside, we know we need hard times in order to grow strong in the Lord. We understand that God is preparing us to accomplish great works for Him. But oh how we chafe against the heat! And how we wish we could speed up the process!
When God “holds us over the heat” in a fiery trial, it’s easy to get impatient. I get it, Lord, we may pray. I learned the lesson. You can take me out of the fire now!
But still the trial remains, and sometimes even grows worse. As the weeks, months, and years go by, we wonder if God has forgotten us.
I’m sure Joseph felt the same way. His brothers were so jealous of him that they threw him into a deep pit to die. A little while later they changed their minds and hauled him back up. Just as Joseph was about to rejoice, he realized the only reason they pulled him out was to sell him to a traveling band of slave traders.
Nice guys, right?
Joseph was taken to Egypt, where he served as a slave to a man named Potiphar. (When I was a kid, I had a teacher call him Pot-of-Fire. That’s a name you won’t forget!) 🙂 Joseph earned the trust of his new master, and Potiphar made Joseph his second-in-command. Maybe life in Egypt wouldn’t be so bad?
Except that old Pot-of-Fire had a wife who was a spitfire.
She wanted Joseph for herself. When he refused to give in to her seduction, she framed him, and her husband threw him into prison. The Bible doesn’t record Joseph’s thoughts at this point, but I know what mine would have been.
What in the world, Lord? I did the right thing, I KEEP doing the right thing, and I’m STILL THROWN INTO JAIL!
But Joseph didn’t give up in despair. He remained faithful. He won the trust of his superiors once again, and the keeper of the prison committed the rest of the prisoners into his care.
(Are you seeing a pattern here? Joseph’s trial keeps getting worse and worse, but he never gives up. He keeps trusting God and doing the right thing, no matter how hot the fire grows.)
Finally the door to Joseph’s life in prison cracks open slightly—just enough to let in a glimmer of hope. He interprets a dream for one of Pharaoh’s servants, who is then released. Joseph asks the servant to plead his case before Pharaoh.
Maybe, just maybe it was time for him to get out of the fire?
Not quite yet. The servant forgets Joseph for TWO more years.
Finally he remembers Joseph when Pharaoh has a disturbing dream. Joseph interprets the dream and becomes second-in-command to Pharaoh. He catapults from the prison to the throne room of Egypt in the space of a few hours.
But the years in the fire? Well, I’m sure they seemed like an eternity to Joseph.
My friend, I don’t know what trial you’re in today. But I do know this:
God will only keep you over the fire for the exact amount of time it takes to fulfil His purposes. It won’t be too long, and it won’t be too short.
Though you may feel like He’s far away, God is holding you close in your pain. He promises His peace, presence, and provision for your every need. And one day, He will bring you out, like gold purified in the fire.
“But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)
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