In 1995, the year we went bankrupt, Christmas was a dark and discouraging time. I had quit praying. I didn’t think this type of disaster happened to Christians. I had believed that if we tithed and loved the Lord, financial disaster would never come.

I had a works mentality: If I do this, God will do that.

God meets all our needs. But his idea of what we need is often not what we think we need. His priority is our refinement and spiritual growth. From an eternal perspective, that is our greatest need. If he has to take away our stuff to accomplish that, he will. He has the eternal view.

I didn’t know this yet, so I was mad at him. I shook my fist in his face. Then I quit speaking to him, certain he didn’t care. I didn’t understand. It was a lovers’ spat.

Our attempt to avoid going over the fiscal cliff had prompted my husband to take a better job, moving our family away from the only city we’d lived in for the first seventeen years of our marriage. In a new town, we faced bankruptcy alone. I was lost in the dark hole of my grief that Christmas.

Gifts for our kids consisted of bed sheets, socks, a bible, and cheap toys for the younger ones. We decorated the tree, went through the celebration, and contemplated the Christ child. But in my heart, anger over God’s betrayal sat like a lump of cold, hard coal.

Wooden Coal Scan Marek Pokorny via Compfight

I hated poverty. I hated the food pantry. I hated not being able to travel to see our extended family. I hated shopping at secondhand clothing stores. All of this embarrassed me. Every evidence of poverty was another reminder that God certainly did not love me.

That was a lie. It worked in the Garden, and it worked on me. It’s Satan’s fallback lie.

In reality, God was in the process of refining us, because he loves us. In the middle of the trial, we didn’t know he was eradicating hypocrisy and legalism from our lives, but he was. It was a Job-like remaking of the sham of our Christian lives.  

As I look back on it from the vantage of nineteen years, I see those events now as the best thing God ever did. Before those trials, my Christianity was all about appearances and rule keeping. If my appearance conformed to a certain standard and I tithed and attended church numerous times a week, I thought I was a good Christian.

Meanwhile, I was not the same person at home as I was in public. I was angry. I was bitter. I yelled at my kids. I lost my temper. I judged others. I thought I could bullet-point my way to spiritual maturity.

I needed to be pulverized through trial to come face to face with this mess. Because God is passionately in love with me, he initiated and undertook the task. He had put on flesh and died a gruesome death to prove his love and to make me into a new woman. He couldn’t leave me like that.

He orchestrated the circumstances to refine me. Love compelled him.

His purpose is to make me into the woman he has intended all along for me to be. He is not content with my mediocrity. He loves me so much that he will not sit by idly while I live a destructive and hypocritical life.

In the middle of my angry mess, a new neighbor invited me to a bible study. They just happened to be studying: “Lord, Where are You when Bad Things Happen?” by Kay Arthur. God had placed me right where I could meet this neighbor and receive an invitation. As I studied, I threw that book across the room numerous times. But it was the beginning of the restoration. I continued, completing the entire series.

I was changed. The Lord is still changing me.

Refinement takes time.

No matter how the refining occurs, God loves us fiercely.

If you’re right in the middle of this type of trial, I urge you to surrender, to yield to God’s work, and to raise the white flag.

A fellow sufferer, I’m calling out to you now from the other side of the chasm: “Hold on! God is good, and he loves you. Ask him for the faith to believe it. It’s true. One day, maybe here on earth, maybe when you see his face, you’ll understand.”

Know that God really is working this together for your good.

You are not alone.

This is an encore post from 2012.