This has been my week to make mistakes. To fail. This has been my week to wonder how in the world my God could still love me in the midst of my sin, my failures, my falling short. I certainly have not been someone like Paul this week, who was often able to say “emulate me”. I would not want anyone emulating me this week.
I don’t listen to Old Hymns very often. I’m not sure why. There aren’t many that I have “fond” memories of singing or leading in church growing up. But I do know that there many old hymns that are rich in Theological doctrine that I need to hear; that I need to let sink deep into my soul. One such song that was shared with me this week is “How Firm a Foundation.”
The verse that was pointed out to me is this one below:
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
And just like scripture work, I was able to tear apart this stanza to write about it, analyze it, study it and then worship through it.
My fiery trials are nothing, nothing compared what my fellow believers experience in the persecuted church. They face imprisonment and death for their faith. I have nothing, nothing to say when considering the fiery trials that their pathways lead through. My fiery trials are like small little matches that fringe the edges of my fingers and my hair. Yet at times they seem like fiery trials. At times the heat is turned up. When I seem to make mistake after mistake and sin after sin, and when I watch my daughter be hurt by her friends at school, and when I lose a dear friend, the trials seem so much bigger.
But what beautiful words come next in this song: My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply. The image that comes to mind is a bit graphic. It’s a picture of a fire fighter coming to rescue you from a fire, bringing you an oxygen mask and supply to get you through the fire. God, in his mercy, supplies exactly what we need in the trials we face, and that is his grace. His supply of grace. It doesn’t run out It is all-sufficient. All-sufficient. And what’s even more miraculous, He gives us this grace to be our supply. He doesn’t put out the fire, but gives us what we need to endure and survive it.
So what is the purpose of the fire? We see that in the final two lines. The flame will not hurt thee. How can that be? We had candles burning yesterday and the boys took turns dipping their fingers into the hot wax that hurt, getting closer and closer to the flame (the things we do for fun around here–rolls eyes). Why will the flame not hurt thee? It’s not designed to. That is not what this flames design is made for.
Instead, the flame is designed to consume the dross. What is dross? It’s the waste, the refuse. It is the ugly of my life. My life needs purified, and part of that purification means going through fiery trials. And in so doing the gold–or rather, my soul is refined.
The song ends with the most beautiful, beautiful promise, one that I cling to with all my strength…a promise that I dig my fingers into and hold on because my life depends upon it:
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.