I remember when I was in High School and we learned what the word ‘Crucible’ meant: A place of severe test or trial; a place or situation in which different elements interact to produce something new. Our teacher explained that many times, when one wants to refine gold or silver, the metal is placed into a crucible, exposed to very high temperatures and then the impurities are burned away leaving a beautiful finished product.
October was my month of a living-crucible in Thailand.
You’ve heard the old saying, ‘be careful what you wish for’ or ‘be careful what you pray for’? Now I’m recommending, ‘be careful what you study’. In my quiet time I began a study that I titled ‘Crucible’ where I studied a few places in the Bible where trials were turned into triumphs. In Romans 5:3-5, tribulation turned to perseverance, proven character, and then into a hope that doesn’t disappoint. James 1:2-4 talked of trials being a testing of our faith, teaching us endurance until we reached a perfect result.
While I was studying, there were no real struggles I was facing- just the normal, small struggles of living in a new culture. Then God took me on a field trip: Chiang Mai Ram Hospital! October was a month of sickness, pain and deep reliance on Him. It was a time where I learned to put into action what I say I believe in the Bible; that God is good in all circumstances and has a good plan with everything in my life, even sickness in a foreign country.
It was a time of living out 1 Thessalonians 5:16. “Rejoice Always!” My God is good. He is worthy of praise regardless of circumstance. I believe what is written in Romans 8:28 and it is my joy to honor Him!
I’ve been blessed to be able to come home to celebrate Christmas with my family. And as nice as it has been, I’ve also been hit by the reality of worry and the effect that it has on service to God. As my dad and I drove around Oregon and delivered Christmas presents to all the aunts and uncles, each asked me, “Are you really going back to Thailand after being ‘deathly’ sick again?” And my answer is an emphatic ‘YES!’
I understand their worry and am incredibly thankful for their concern, but my experience has been that that I’ve seen in these passages: From trial comes triumph! Sickness is not my desire, nor is it God’s. However, praise and relationship with Him is! While I lay in my guest house, recovering from my week in the hospital I wrote a blog post (www.elsethenomad.wordpress.com). It was about why I joyfully choose to stay in Thailand with the Karen despite sickness. It was my testimony of God’s triumph.
That post circulated the globe. Friends in Asia read it, friends in Europe read it, and my dad read it to a waitress when he had a Bible study at a restaurant in town. I can’t help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, God allowed me to be sick just so that that waitress could hear the testimony of God’s faithfulness and redemptive and saving love.
Without darkness there can be no light. Without the cold, there would be no comforting heat. Without the difficulties of life, there would be no need for the grace and mercy of God. It is through the testing of our faith that we are made into the perfect likeness of Jesus. Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, bit by vipers and imprisoned; yet he praised God continually with all his heart.
More and more, I understand what Paul meant when he said ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain’. My life is more than health and ease. My life is to glorify God. If glorifying God means being sick in a foreign land, resulting in people all over the world getting on their knees in communication with the God of the Universe, then I’m okay with that.
I will happily and joyfully go through the crucible.
Else Conrad One Year team, Maw Gwee, Thailand