Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
This is a pretty famous verse and concept that most Christians know, and has been included in many bible studies, hymns, and contemporary praise and worship songs. But how many of us really understand the depths of this simple verse?
Have any of you done pottery, or watched a potter at work? It's pretty serious stuff. The potter starts with a simple ball of clay, and pounds it roughly into a firm lump on the wheel. Then as the wheel spins, the potter reshapes it with his hands. Over time, the lump of clay becomes something completely different. The process itself is pretty rough on the clay and pretty messy. Bits of clay may be worn off or cut off. There is a lot of water, and the potter's hands become covered in the mud and clay. The clay is radically changed from a useless clump to a useful instrument. But once a pitcher, cup, or pot is formed, it's still not finished. If we tried to put anything in it at this time, it would fall apart. To be truly finished, the object must be fired in a kiln. It must be put through intense heat and fire before being useable.
Isn't this so much like how God works in our lives? When we come to Him we are useless and unformed. He begins to mold us, but it's not easy or pretty. It's pretty messy, and bits of us may be pulled off. Those are bits that we don't need, even if we think we do. By the time God is finished with shaping us, we probably can't be recognized as the same thing He started with. And to truly finish us, God must put us through the fire of trials. It is in the kiln of trouble and tribulation that we finally become what we should be.
When you feel the heat of the fire, feel yourself stretched beyond your shape, and feel bits of yourself coming off, just think of yourself as a lump of clay. God is molding you into something beautiful that He can use. The process might be rough, but the end result will be worth it.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.