“The swamps and marshes won’t become fresh. They’ll stay salty.
“But the river itself, on both banks, will grow fruit trees of all kinds. Their leaves won’t wither, the fruit won’t fail. Every month they’ll bear fresh fruit because the river from the Sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.”
— EZEKIEL 47:11-12 (Msg)
As it stands, life produces the circumstances where we will be hurt. There will be times, in a broken world, when we will feel justifiably transgressed. But it isn’t what happens to us that defines us; we know this. It is how we respond, as if we need reminding, which is how we are refined by God toward greater levels of human capacity toward healing.
The vision cast forth in Ezekiel involves a man approaching a river, stepping into it, wading, then fully immersed. The man is being carried forth with the flow of the river, but as he looks to his side he sees evidence of death – tributaries where virgin growth has been stagnated by a corrosive saltiness. There is no life there. But on the banks on the side of the river it is lush and teeming with life.
Likewise, in the midst of our lives, if we get stuck in a salty tributary rather than staying with the flow of the river, we don’t get to enjoy access to the life-giving nourishment on the banks – we get stuck where there is no life.
Hurts evolve into resentments and resentment takes us further into the salty tributary.
The Opportunity at Character Refinement
Hurts are an opportunity at character refinement. There is no other purpose in dealing with a hurt, other than the purpose that the enemy as for it; to dissuade us from good action, to discourage us, and to push us ever closer toward entering one of those salty tributaries.
We need to know that character refinement is the defining role of a hurt.
God would not have us suffer these hurts for any other reason than for the opportunity to learn through the hurt. So when we are hurt, for any reason, there is the ability to see beyond the hurt toward a response that trusts God.
There is the opportunity to respond as Joseph responded. He didn’t react at his brothers or Potiphar’s wife. It was almost as if, to the observer, he didn’t respond at all, almost submitting. But he waited on God. He had faith that God had a better plan than he could conjure.
Character refinement is the defining role of a hurt. It is a God-appointed opportunity to respond wisely, in a patient expression of faith, rather than react. When we wait on our response, trusting God by prayer, we also allow God’s Spirit to heal us, by helping us understand we are dealing with a broken world – with broken people, who are just like us.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.