The craftsmen at Anselm Kitengala glass outside Nairobi, Kenya know this. That’s why they have an oil fed furnace that glows at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. The extreme heat makes the glass pliable, allowing them to mold it into useful shapes, whether vases, pitchers, plates, goblets, or a dozen other items.
What’s true about glass works is true about life. I think back on furnace times, when circumstances were hot and difficult to endure. Sometimes it was interpersonal conflict, other times sickness or financial difficulties. Yet God, the master Craftsman, used these times to mold my character, to teach me to rely on Him, to shape me just how He wanted. Though not easy at the time, I’m better today because of it.
I’m glad life isn’t always in the furnace. When the craftsman is done, he places the glass vessel into the annealer where it can gradually cool to room temperature, usually over a 24 hour period. These are the peaceful periods of life when God allows a calm stability to take hold, a time of reflection and thanksgiving to the Lord for taking us through the fiery trial.
Peter was a fisherman, not a glass worker. However, he seems to have understood the role that fire plays in developing our character. In 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NIV) he observes:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
Whether we’re in the furnace or the annealer, let us thank God for caring enough to shape our character, to make us like Christ. The end result – a beautiful and useful vessel – is worth it.