Who of us doesn’t know someone who is suffering deeply? Who has lived a life free from trials and pain?
We surrounded by pain and suffering.
I thought about this fact while my husband and I enjoyed a few days on the coast this summer.
We had visited one of our favorite glassblowing studios in this artsy beach town, and after watching the artists work, we ventured further south to another studio. It was a grayed cedar building, hidden in the trees, and we spent a half hour admiring the beautiful vases, bowls, lanterns, and other glass items on display.
Just as we were about to leave, the glassblower picked up a piece of metal tubing and headed toward the furnace. So we sat down to watch him in action.
We’ve watched glassblowers before, but no one has ever explained what they were doing. This man did, and it was fascinating.
The glassblower uses two different furnaces as he works. The first is the furnace that contains a crucible of molten glass. This furnace is heated to over 2000 degrees F.!
He dips a hollow steel tube into the hot molten glass and rolls a glob onto the end of the tube. Rotating the tube all the time so the hot liquid glass doesn’t fall off, he takes it out of the furnace and rolls the blob of glass on a metal table called a marver to shape it and cool it.
To open up the inside of that blob of glass, the glassblower blows into the tube and then covers the hole with his thumb. I’ve always naively thought glassblowing was like blowing up a balloon. You just blow until you get the size you want.
He explained that the moisture in his breath turned into steam in the heat and that is what causes the bubble of air to expand inside the glass blob. He can’t just get a big blob of glass, roll it a few times, and then blow it into the vase or bowl or lantern that he wants.
It’s a slower process.
He gets the bubble started. The glass starts to cool. So he puts it back into a second cooler furnace (“only” 1600-1900 degrees) to make it more malleable again. He rolls it more on the marver.
He dips it back into the molten glass in the hottest furnace to make it bigger. He rolls and shapes and cools it again on the marver. He blows to make the bubble inside bigger.
The glass goes back and forth between the hottest furnace for more molten glass, the marver for shaping and cooling, and the secondary furnace for more heat to make it malleable again, while the blower continues to blow more air into it, always watching to make sure the walls don’t get too thin and break or too thick to be beautiful and usable.
So every time the glass starts to lose its ability to be molded, it goes back into the heat.
That blob of glass had no idea what it was going to become under the skill of the glassblower. It submitted itself to the heat, the shaping, the blowing, and it became a beautiful, glorious, serviceable piece of art to adorn someone’s home or workplace.
Can you see the picture of God at work in our trials and suffering?
In and out of the furnace we go. God knows exactly how much heat we need — what will cause us to break, and what it takes to make us malleable as He works in our lives.
He shapes us, and then puts us back into the heat so He can continue His shaping work. He’s making us into something beautiful, a reflection of His glory, a picture of His Son. And He’s making us usable, someone who is ready to trust and serve Him.
The Holy Spirit blows His breath into us, changing us from the inside out, while circumstances and trials work on us from the outside.
And through it all God is carefully overseeing the whole process — watching us grow, knowing what He wants us to become, and applying the heat and the pressure to bring that to pass.
Remember that secondary furnace, the one that is only 1600-1900 degrees hot? That smaller furnace is called the glory hole!
That immediately brought a verse to mind.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).
God puts us into the fire to change us. He’s making something beautiful, preparing us for glory. And sometimes, as God puts us into the fire, we get a glimpse of that glory.
We understand in a new way how great and powerful God is.
We appreciate more deeply the privilege of having a high priest “who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” — a priest who bids us come near to the throne of grace so we can receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.