Forged Like Steel
Old Testament Reading- Psalm 23
New Testament Reading- 1 Peter 1:3-7
By Henry J. Rafferty CLP -January 22, 2023
“We don’t want to become so hard and rigid that we can only do things a certain way or not at all, we must be able to absorb what life brings us and tough enough not to break under the load.” ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
There was a family living in America in modern times. The parents had good jobs and were well off financially, and they loved their children dearly. These two parents were not always wealthy though, both grew up, not in poverty, but at the lower end of middle class. They both came from good homes, with parents that both worked hard to support their families. The children each had to share their bedrooms with other siblings and although they fought like cats and dogs when they were young, it made them closer when they grew up.
These modern parents that we are talking about decided that even though they had much more money than their parents had, they decided that they wanted their children to grow up in a similar way to how they were raised.
The early childhood days of the family went quite smoothly, the parents loved their children and the children felt special in their parent’s eyes. No favoritism existed in the clan, and what little squabbles occurred between the children was remedied by the parents in a healthy way.
All, as I said was going well, even idyllic, until adolescence set in. Those of us who have gone through this time of life know that it is not easy. It is a ‘Me,’ stage in life when each of us are trying to find our own way amid a rapidly changing body and what we perceive as also a rapidly changing world. All of this change and then to boot, add in that all of our friends and classmates are going through the same thing. This is the time in our lives when we can become cynical, egocentric, brash, chaotic, moody, dramatic, happy, and sad all in a matter of a few minutes. Needless to say, it is a challenge for those who are going through it directly and, like parents, indirectly.
About the time the children were in junior high, their friends would see what neighborhood the family lived in and what kind of car they drove and would ask what their parents did for a living. When the children would tell them, they would respond with, “Whoa, you guys are rich.” This was baffling to the children, as they had never really thought about it. Money wasn’t talked about much at home and let’s face it, young kids know nothing of the value of money anyway, so they don’t think much about where they live and what their parents drive, especially if everything is good.
Soon, their friends would start talking about things that they had that their family did not. Cell phones at young ages, laptops, gaming devices, ATV’s, name brand clothing and shoes, you name it, they started noticing it and began being picked on because they didn’t have it. The children started asking their parents for all these luxuries, to which the parents replied that they didn’t feel it important to have those things. This bothered the children, as they now knew that their parents were well off enough to afford these things yet didn’t indulge their children. This was not easy for the kids, as they had to contend with the ridicule from other students, and they felt left out of many of the things that others did socially.
Some of the children began to resent their parents because of this perceived injustice, thinking that they were being cruel and greedy by not allowing them to have what others had. As the kids passed from junior high into senior high, their parents encouraged them to find part-time jobs, so that they would learn to value the need for money with the need to work. They tried, although with some of the children, unsuccessfully, to teach them that if they just handed them all they wanted that it would devalue everything and make them materialistic.
By the time the children were in their twenties, most had learned these life lessons well and were appreciative of their parents for being strong and not giving into their every whim. They finally got to see that how they were raised was for their benefit, not for their detriment. I did say most of the children, some got the picture while still in their teens and twenties, others in their thirties, but one child was a tough nut to crack.
This child was always the one most cynical, the most unyielding, the most self-centered, and certainly the most know-it-all of the lot. Everything with this one had to be learned the hard way. This child had maybe more potential for success in life than all of
them, but always wanted to play the victim. After struggling to make it through high school, not because of anything other than laziness, this young person, we will call Jimmy, decided they didn’t have to do more schooling of any kind and they just went off to work. Bouncing around from one job to the next for years, Jimmy wouldn’t know the word career if it slapped him in the face. Job to job, paycheck to paycheck, always behind on everything, and it was always everyone else’s fault. Soon he took up with the wrong people and literally forgot about his parents altogether. This saddened his parents, but nothing they did could ever break him away from being the victim and blaming them for all his woes.
After years of broken relationships, failed marriages, alcohol abuse, and dead-end jobs, Jimmy finally found a job at a metal shop making good pay. He was surprised how much he liked this job, it was hard, it was hot, but he loved learning the process of creating something from nothing. Jimmy’s boss was a big man, roughly his father’s age, and had been in the business for decades. He took a liking to Jimmy, and the feelings were mutual. The boss took every opportunity to teach Jimmy how to work metal, from the process itself, to the financial end of the business. He really saw something in Jimmy if he could just get him past the victim mentality, he could really make something of himself.
While learning the process of forging steel, the boss showed him that by heating the steel up to a certain temperature, hammering it, then finally cooling the metal it not only shapes the steel into what you want to make, but it hardens it in the process. Jimmy asked the boss, “So, by heating, hammering, and cooling you actually make the steel harder than it was originally?” “Yes,” said the boss, “just like life, sometimes it is the hardships we face in life that strengthen us the most.” That really rung a bell for Jimmy. “But that’s just the start of it,” said the boss, “There’s more.”
Next, Jimmy learned how by heating and cooling the metal at different temperatures and at different speeds the metal would become less hard and brittle, but stronger and more durable. “Take a pickaxe for example Jimmy,” said the boss. “You wouldn’t want it to shatter or break off if you hit a rock, so the steel must be tough enough to endure the job it needs to do.” “Life is like that too, we don’t want to become so hard and rigid that we can only do things a certain way or not at all, we must be able to absorb what life brings us and tough enough not to break under the load.” This really gave Jimmy a lot to think about.
As Jimmy worked in the metal shop more, he learned that life really was much like his new profession. He thought a lot about his parents too and how maybe they were not as wrong as he thought they were. Maybe, they really did have his best interests in mind. Jimmy could now see that life was a lot like that piece of steel, that it matters what you are making that determines how you form it and that each way is different, not wrong, but different. He and his siblings, each different, and each were strengthened in different ways, yet all benefitted in the end. Jimmy finally realized that he did everything the hard way, but that he was strengthened in the process.
God works in a similar way. Like the parents in our story, God has the power to do all things for us, which He would be glad to do, but humanity, like our boy Jimmy, has just got to do things the hard way. We don’t want to trust that God knows what is best for us and that when hardship comes, we should ask for Him to strengthen us to endure our trials, instead we blame Him for our hardships as if we didn’t have a hand in it. We are quick to blame God for all our troubles, yet eager to pat ourselves on the backs for our blessings. Which is it? Is God only the maker of bad in our lives and not good? Nonsense! God, like the metal smiths, knows exactly how much heat to allow us, then to let life hammer us into shape, finally cooling us sufficiently to temper us for future service. God knows you better than you do yourself, in fact, most people, when faced with hardships look back upon those times with newfound confidence and strength of character, never believing that by God allowing our trials, we are made stronger than we could have ever known.
Trust in God, remember the words of Psalm 23:1-4,
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
As we travel through life, God is ever present, and if we trust in Him, we will have all we ever need. Green pastures, still waters, straight paths, restoring our souls all the way. Even when we walk through trouble, even through death we have nothing to fear. For those of us who believe and trust in God, we are no longer worried about doing things our own way, as the psalmist says, His rod and His staff, His tools of correction, saving, and guiding no longer are seen as bad things, but tools of comfort in our lives, because He loves us.
Remember that not all hardships and stress are a bad thing. Sometimes they are the Lord’s way of preparing us for something greater or by strengthening us for something that will be much worse in our future. This life is no bed of roses, Jesus told us that in this life we would see trouble, He certainly did, and like Him, we will overcome it. We need to know that our Almighty Father is always next to us and there to equip us with just what we need to best serve Him and others. Trust in the Lord, won’t you and He will never let you down. All glory and praise be to God our Father. Amen!