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Refined

About a year ago, in conversation with a friend, she thoughtfully spoke a statement that has lodged deep inside me and changed the way I view my life.

Her poignant words were in response to my exasperation after hearing a married friend say to me, "Marriage has been the greatest tool of sanctification in my life!"

I bemoaned to my friend, "So is there some level of sanctification that I'm just not able to achieve because I'm not married? Are all married Christians farther along in their spiritual walk than single Christians could ever hope to be?"

I remember how she paused while carefully choosing her reply to me. "For some, the refining fire is marriage, and for others, the refining fire is singleness."
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.Philippians 1:6
The status of life that I'm in is exactly the one that God is going to use to purge my faults, draw me closer to Him, and magnify His own goodness in my life.

Sanctification: To be set apart for God's use, separated from our own fleshly desires

I know, I know, I've been throwing around words like "sanctifying" and "refining fire," and while I think you could just fill in the blanks in your own mind, here are a few examples of fires that God strategically places in our lives.
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The refining fire of an angry customer.
The refining fire of receiving criticism at work.
The refining fire of increased responsibility.
The refining fire of starting a new job.
The refining fire of your child throwing a temper tantrum.
The refining fire of a barren womb.
The refining fire of caring for an aging parent.
The refining fire of losing a loved one.
The refining fire of being a teenager.
The refining fire of raising a teenager.
The refining fire of admitting you're wrong and apologizing.
The refining fire of prolonged sickness.
The refining fire of serving others.
The refining fire of loneliness.
The refining fire of being in community with difficult people.
In these instances you have multiple ways you can respond. Hatred, anger, pride, resentment, frustration (I call this "passive pride," since your frustration stems from the pride-rooted idea that you're better than the "frustrating" person), etc... these are all fleshly, sinful ways to respond. (See Galatians 5 and Proverbs 6 for more examples of our bent toward sin.) Lean in closer to the discomfort of the flame; allow those natural responses to melt away and ask God to evidence the fruit of the Spirit instead, such as love, meekness, gentleness, joy, longsuffering, and peace.

Imagine responding to your child's temper tantrum with gentleness instead of frustration!
Imagine responding to an angry customer with love instead of self-defense!
Imagine responding to unfulfilled desires with peace instead of resentment!

These would be evidences of God's process of sanctification at work in your life. It's less about me and you trying to pursue sanctification and more about allowing the Lord to do His sanctifying work in us.

If God moves you close to another person, whether it be marriage, friendship, mentorship, or "co-worker-ship," the goal is always to refine the dross in you. The end goal of this refining fire of sanctification is not to be happily married nor to be contentedly single. The goal is to be more and more like Christ, and to be more and more useful for the Master.
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