Have you ever seen images of novas, or of night eruptions from a volcano? There is a terrifying beauty that is often visible in things being crushed or destroyed. A disturbing thought is that we would never experience the beauty without the tragedy surrounding it. The crushing pressure that takes away all that they are is what transforms them into the thing of beauty we see.
I’ve heard similar things surrounding flowers, except in this case it is more about the fragrance rather than the beauty. At first glance we see the beauty and think it is absolutely perfect, who would want to destroy it? But it is said that a flower is most fragrant when it is crushed, as it is only then that the oils are released.
Going through a crushing like this in our own lives, or watching a loved one experience this can be excruciatingly painful, hard to tolerate or watch. Our first impulse is to beg God to remove the bitter cup!
I think of Peter, and can only imagine the kind of devotion he must have had after walking with Jesus for nearly three years. Watching the many miracles take place at His hand, getting to eat with Him daily, asking questions and getting answers no one else was given, knowing he was blessed to be caught up in the middle of THE MESSIAH come to earth. It must have been amazing!
It was no small wonder then that when Peter heard Jesus tell them He had to suffer and be killed, he instantly reacted out of his emotions, emotions he confused with love and devotion, when he asked for God to forbid it and insisted it should never be! He could not imagine or understand how the crushing of One so perfect could ever be part of God’s plan or used for His glory! Where is the possibility of beauty or fragrance in that?
Jesus reply was direct. “But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”” Matthew 16:23 NASB
I can only imagine how such a rebuke must have made Peter feel in the moment. But even then, Peter was being prepared for his next level of faith on his journey, and would learn soon that it was crucial for Christ to suffer and die on the cross, for it is only on the third day, after the resurrection, that we begin to recognize the terrible beauty, and to smell the fragrance of salvation! Relationship and fellowship with Father God was once again possible!
When you are caught up in the emotional side of wanting to do everything in your own power to prevent suffering, and realizing you cannot, are then crying out to God to stop the pain, remember Peter. You are not alone. Then remember too, the beauty we would not have seen otherwise that came about as a result. What if Peter had been successful at convincing God that His own Son should not suffer or be destroyed on that cross? Where would you and I be now?
It might be interesting to point out that Peter changed his perspective about suffering after that, and we can see this in 1 Peter 2:19-24.
Am I saying that God Himself causes the suffering in our lives? No. But long before you were ever born, He knew where your path in life would lead and what you would face as a result, and He already set a plan in motion to take the suffering we experience here and use it for His plan and for His glory. Know this: Although His ways appear mysterious to us (Isaiah 55:9), you and your loved ones are in the hands of Almighty God , a God who can be trusted to turn ashes into beauty (Isaiah 61:3).
Am I saying don’t pray? No. I am saying don’t use your prayers to stand in the way of God being able to use that destruction, what the enemy meant for evil, for His greater purpose and glory instead. Don’t miss out on the beauty and the fragrance! Am I saying it is wrong to pray for miracles, healings, mercy, or blessing? No, of course not! We can pray for any and all of those things. Pray too that God’s will be done, for His grace to be given so we can endure with patience, for trust to be unwavering, and for faith to be increased. He wants to prepare you for the next level of faith. Are you ready?
Whether you are reading this post as someone going through trials or someone who is learning how to effectively pray for another who is, I pray you are comforted by these words.
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV)