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I don’t know anyone whose life has been free of adversity. Even newborn infants cry, right? And, spoiler alert to those babies: These will not be the last tears you shed.
Sometimes we think our own lives are harder than anyone else’s, but if you could truly look into other people’s hearts, you’d find surprising trials and anguish you didn’t even know about. Most of us are pretty good at hiding our private difficulties.
And so we all struggle through life. As Latter-day Saints, we know this is part of God’s plan, part of our earthly test. Difficulties make us grow and learn. They force us to exercise faith and turn to God. They provide the comparison that makes us grateful for moments when life is joyful.
But adversity also does something else. It presents a choice. Often hardships and calamities arise that seem to trap us, nailing us to the floor in agony. We may feel all our options have vanished. But this is actually never true.
Think about fire for a moment. It’s powerful, it spreads quickly, it can destroy everything in its path. But it has another property we often forget: It can refine.
In Malachi 3:3 we are told that the Lord “shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” There are some great lessons here for us. For centuries, silversmiths would put broken, crushed ore into a fiery furnace and turn up the heat to melt off the impurities. Are we not broken, rough, and filled with impurities?
Silver experts knew which impurities would melt off at which temperatures. And the refiner had to be vigilant and watch carefully, because if the temperature got too high, the silver could be ruined. This is exactly how the Lord watches over us, with constant attention to the details of our lives. He knows every pain, every sorrow you feel—in fact, he took those upon himself in atoning for us. He also will not allow us to be tried beyond our ability to withstand it, if we turn to him for help.
But one of the most beautiful analogies in this process is how a silversmith knows when the silver is done—he sees his reflection in it. And Christ will see his reflection in us when all our impurities have melted away, and we have truly given our hearts to him.
When harsh challenges arise, we still have a choice. We can be as a wisp of paper thrown into a fire and quickly consumed, or we can choose to be silver, and allow that trial to refine us, and make us into something better than we were. We can sink into despair and self-pity, adopting the victim role, or we can be fearless and faithful, determined to triumph.
Elder James E. Faust once said, “Here then is a great truth. In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through a refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact, and strong. In this way the divine image can be mirrored from the soul. It is part of the purging toll exacted of some to become acquainted with God. In the agonies of life, we seem to listen better to the faint, godly whisperings of the Divine Shepherd.”
If you are struggling with a problem (or several) right now, ask yourself: Am I going to be paper or silver? We get to choose.
Watch the music video of Hilton’s song, What Makes a Woman, from her new musical, The Best Medicine (with music by Jerry Williams). Her books and YouTube Mom videos are available on her website, here. Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.