“The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests hearts” Prov. 17:3 (NASB)
Last week, I participated in a mission trip in my own city of Houston. Although I have missionary in my intern title, I hadn’t been a part of a short-term mission experience since the beginning of college. These past experiences honestly left me with some residual issues of identity and inadequacy.
As the time approached for me to lead a couple of the college students during Spring Break, I carried some anxiety, but also a strong desire not to bring my mission trip baggage along for the week. After talking to my counselor, I felt better prepared to handle whatever was thrown my way because of the truth of Romans 5:3-4:
“…but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
In addition to trying to work out past experiences, I was wary of doing ministry with my fiancé, who worked closely with the church directing the mission trip. How was I supposed to act as he leads the group? Should I act like we were not getting married in 80 days? What if I needed affirmation from him as my fiancé and not as my group leader?
But, after communicating my concerns to my husband-to-be, I sat before the Lord, writing down copious amounts of scriptures that reminded me of who God was, aligning my heart and mind with His will and desires for my life and the upcoming week.
I did everything “right.” I actively engaged with God through prayer and Bible reading, communicated with those around me rather than hiding my feelings, and I had faith that God would bring me through the week. And He did, just not the way I expected.
He not only chose to sustain me throughout the week, but also to refine me. Unfortunately, all of the junk (selfishness, fear, pride, anger, insecurities etc.) in my heart did not just silently dissipate. It was as if all of my foolishness wanted to make one last public debut before this particular process of sanctification was complete. I was in the middle of the mission trip, in the middle of trying to be a good Campus Missionary, in the middle of trying to be a good fiancée, and I could not seem to bury all of this foolishness.
“God, I know I asked you to kill my flesh, to bear Your fruit of the Spirit, but why now, why like this?” I asked. I was so confused because I gave everything to the Lord and I still saw my sin both glaring and affecting others. I felt like Paul in Romans 7, wracking my brain as to why I could not just get it together. I humbly confessed to others and repented to God for my sinfulness, and thankfully, I learned some things:
- My fiancé is a blessing from the Lord. If I ever needed confirmation that he would die to self for the sake of loving me, even (especially) when I don’t deserve it, it was this past week. And he illuminated the mystery of Christ and the Church: that Christ would die for an undeserving, unfaithful bride is a beautiful enigma. Glory to God!
- The Lord is sovereign in how He chooses to refine us. I didn’t want my fiancé or my students or anyone else to have to deal with (or have any knowledge of) my mess in this purifying process, but what if all of it was more than just about me and my sanctification? Is it possible that He wanted His strength to be made perfect in my weakness, so that others would see Him glorified in my struggle? Is it possible that my fiancé could be bold in loving me, and that my students could see how God can work through His children even when He decides to work in His children?
- God doesn’t need us to set aside our weaknesses on mission trips so He can use us. He can choose to refine us as we serve Him. Proof: the mission experience itself was great. Somehow, by God’s grace and mercy, the serving wasn’t negatively affected by this inner turmoil the way I feared it would. Not because I hid it well, but because God can handle using me and sanctifying me simultaneously. Because He’s God. Yes, be present. Yes, be faithful. But ultimately, trust God’s goodness, grace and timing with the process of sanctification.
- God is faithful. Because of this mission experience, I got to see this even more clearly than before. He is the hope that never disappoints. And for this, I rejoice.
“May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who called you is faithful, and he will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:a23-24 (HCSB)
Jakora Frazier is serving as a campus missionary intern at Houston Baptist University in Houston.