Isaiah 48:10 – See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
The image of being refined in the furnace of suffering is common in the Bible, but the image of firing pottery in the kiln occurs very seldom, perhaps once:
Nahum 3:14 – Go into the clay and tread the mortar, make strong the brickkiln.
Still, firing pottery in the kiln is a beautiful analogy of the relationship between God and us, his people.
Pottery is fired at least twice in the process of its creation and decoration. The fragile greenware is fired once to remove the residual moisture from the clay, and to strengthen it by heating it to a temperature where it just starts to melt and the clay molecules begin to bond. An unfired piece of greenware would dissolve or fall apart in water. Then a beautiful glaze coat is put on it, to make the piece waterproof. Any other decorations are then painted on, and the work is fired again, to melt the outside layers. The colour of the chemicals that are painted on bear no resemblance to the colours of the finished work.
Often when we go through those fires of trouble, heartache and affliction, we wonder why. Why are so many difficulties part of God's perfect plan for us? The answer to that is often obvious in hindsight, but rarely at the time. One firing may be to set our character in a certain facet; another to make us impervious to some form of temptation, and others to add touches that conform us to the image of Christ. We can't tell beforehand, by the colours of the trial, what the finished work will look like. The master Potter knows just what is necessary, not only to make us useful vessels here on earth, but to make us beautiful showpieces for His gallery in heaven.
Prayer: Lord, frankly, we wonder about the suffering we have to go through, and why so much of it is necessary. Give us some insight into Your perfect plan for us, so that we can be more patient during the firing process. Amen.