Refined by the Fire
But he knows the way that I take, when he has tested me I shall come forth as gold.
Paul writes in a letter to the Romans in Chapter 10: “If you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead–you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified. And it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (Romans 10:9-10).
I remind you of this verse because some have a misconception about how to come to the Lord. They may think you need to have had a sin-free life or that he would not accept you into the Kingdom if you’ve messed up! The opposite is true. Paul said if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart, you will be saved.
Grace is a gift. Our works don’t consistently demonstrate that we should earn it. God loves us, still. Whether you are a ‘Noah’ or fall short (at times we all do) he longs to be with you, and you will one day understand the importance of his existence! All we have is now so let’s make the most of it and live in his presence!
God can pull you out of your past so you can live fully in the present. The path will not be an easy one. God may call you to put away selfish desires, arrogance, or any sense of entitlement.
It isn’t a live-your-best-life kind of path; at times, it will be difficult. There are hardships and rejection. It isn’t always pleasurable. But following Jesus is not a one-time event—he is continually molding and shaping us. It will be worth it in the end! When you know where the grace in your life comes from, it makes it that much more special! If you ask the Lord to direct you, he will guide your steps.
I walk with the kind of crutches that you can slip your arm into; not the kind that someone would use if they had a broken leg, for example. They are called forearm crutches. The next step for me would be to walk well with one cane, and I hope to get to that. But I’ve come to accept that even if I don’t, it’ll be okay. God grants our wishes but sometimes with limits for his own purposes or for the purpose of the Kingdom (heaven).
In due time it will all make sense. Remember that every successful endeavor takes careful ‘watering.’ Increase can be a gradual process. Everything is in God’s hands. Again, we can be co-workers with God, but we have to do our part. By having faith and taking action! We cannot just be stagnant. We have to work hard. He can help us through anything. We have to talk with him and make him our best friend. He wants to see our dreams happen.
God will get you through anything. Rest assured. You may not know where to turn or what steps you should even take, but he will lead you and guide you if you ask him to. Seek after his wise council. You do not need to worry, but only be still and ask him to help you. There have been times where I had no idea what my life was doing or how I would end up. God brought me through in those times and gave me step by step instruction. He is a problem solver. A friend. A refuge. An ever-present help in our time of trouble.
The beautiful thing is he’s omnipresent. He can be everywhere all at once. He is a God who does not sleep. You have access to him 24 hours a day. The world will tell you there is no way out. The world will tell you you’re doomed. The world will tell you there’s no hope. With God, there is always hope! There is restoration. The laws of physics prove to us that anything is possible. But nothing can be possible if you throw your hands up. With God ALL things are possible. He can lead and guide you through the worst of times. Just call out to him and he will be there for you.
We are told through the Bible that God is all around us. The Holy Spirit is our present help. This means we cannot escape his presence no matter how hard we try. To say we’ve never heard from God is to tell a lie. We can tune out his voice or pretend he is not there, but it’s difficult to do that because he is everywhere. God is altruistic and kind. God is loving and he requires the same of us.
He’s not just an old guy with a white beard sitting in the sky waiting to scold us! People who are so focused on the judgement and ‘warning’ everyone have never experienced the real Jesus. They are portraying some man made image of a God who won’t love you if you mess up. God’s love cannot change. He is the same. Yesterday. Today. And forever. It is us who turn our backs or walk away.
He had loved us at our darkest and at times when we did not deserve his love. God is not partial. He doesn’t only love us when we are doing ‘good.’ He loves us when we fail. He loves us when we’re not pretty. The beautiful thing is we have a chance to turn our lives around and seek after him once again. He loves us eternally. The sooner people realize that God does not change (like we do), the better. He’s not a fair-weather friend. He’s not here for a ‘season’ or because there is some benefit. He doesn’t behave the way humans do.
He is our Holy Father. He loves us when we’re not ‘winning,’ and when we know we could be better. God can’t not love us because God is love. He is the epitome of it. Some may paint the picture in your mind of a God who punishes. But, again, those images are not of the Jesus I know. His arms are open wide, lovingly, and he is waiting for his children to come home.
All the blessings he’s given to me that I am going to continue to describe, I do not believe I gained because I am privileged. It may be because I’ve sought after him. Maybe I can hear better. But I haven’t received blessings because I’m privileged or better. I do believe that God gives different children special missions, and I may be one of them. That is not to say it has been easy to carry. Friends have turned their backs. I’ve been abandoned.
As I mentioned earlier, a life of trying to follow Christ (and really doing it) is not always an easy one. There is rejection and people don’t always understand. They also expect you to never mess up and to not have any flaws. They don’t understand that part of the human condition is to fail. Some may not understand why you’re so devoted. Or they may resent you for trying to do something worthwhile. Either way God didn’t put us here to please each other, we have to please him first. Part of pleasing him is fulfilling our mission. It’s not a desire I can choose to have. It is from within. I can’t help but write books.
When I began driving again at nineteen years old, I wore tall braces that came up to my knees. I kept my walker in the back seat of my car. I’ve had my braces cut down throughout the years. When I was still a patient at Mott Children’s, the braces were exceptionally high! They reached up to my pelvis. I also had a bulky back brace that was attached. I’ve improved a lot since then. The braces I wear now are called AFOs, which stands for “ankle to foot orthosis,” they mainly give support to my ankles.
I had to be my advocate! A patient has to request for their strength to be examined. He or she could be ready to walk with lower braces or without any walking devices, but without asking, they may never know it. Physical therapists perform strength tests, but these are done only at evaluations.
I often see people walking with Exoskeletons in physical therapy (a robotic machine that helps wheelchair users stand up). But the user is mostly just shifting their body weight from one side to the other, and the device helps lift the patient’s leg. It’s used as more of an exercise tool and not outdoors. The Exoskeleton was made for soldiers carrying heavy cargo while going uphill to prevent injury to their lower extremities, and the device weighs fifty pounds! Adding all that weight to your body does not make it easier to walk.
It is crucial to call on the name of the Lord. I have put a lot into this, but it would’ve never happened without God’s guidance. God loves us, so when we call out to him, grace is freely given.
There is no limit to what God can do. We are the miracle workers, too. Without Him, we can do nothing, but we have to do something to start. I got to a point where I exercised until I got soaked: dripping sweat and having to change clothes. When I could not move at all, I used to try hard to move my legs. Even when I couldn’t see it happening, I imagined it, and, eventually, they did. The power of the mind is incredible.
I want to add that there’s something that happens when tragedy strikes. I mean, there is gain in loss. That may sound strange. But loss humbles us in a way and reminds uswe are human. It happens for a reason, and I believe it is to enhance our personal growth.
Asking God questions, sharing my thoughts with him, worries, and concerns helps, and I get better while doing it. I like to talk to God and pray. I pray for myself and for my health and for God to bless me in mind, body, and spirit. I pray that he blesses my mom and (late) dad.
I talk to God while on the walking machines. I talk to Him while at the grocery store and shopping. I talk to Him as I’m getting ready for my classes and when I’m getting ready to teach. I hear from him too while I’m teaching because it is helpful. He gives me direction. I’ve been told that my instruction is very clear and concise. I give immediate feedback after every class. It is God assisting me.
I sometimes read Bible verses and short prayers. I try to commit to fifteen minutes a day of doing it, and I sometimes count prayer as being done while I’m writing, since my main focus is always on God. I speak to him through worship and prayer songs. I express my love by singing out loud and feeling his love. I especially talk with him when it’s quiet, because that is when I can hear from him best.
Prayer helps feed my soul. It helps give clarity to my mind. When I am praying, I am sorting thoughts out. I am prioritizing and giving them to God. I often get messages within or even visions right away. I know what he wants me to do. Maybe it’s because I’ve been talking with him so long. At certain times, the message are stronger than others. But I know he’s always there and listening, no matter what.
We can talk with God about anything. Our good days, bad days, our feelings toward our family or friends. We can tell him where we want to be five years from now or what we’re feeling in our hearts. We can tell him how we feel because he already knows. We can treat him like he’s a friend. He is the only one who will never leave and always stay. When God is in our corner nothing can stop us!
We can read the Psalms and study the Bible. We can say the Lord’s prayer and light a candle. We can talk to him in the car on our way to work. We can never run out of things to talk about. When God is involved, life will be much better. You’ll hear from him. You’ll have strength to make it through the day. He will handle it all and give you steps and instruction.
He is not a do nothing being. People tend to think that trust means inaction. Like, ‘oh, if I trust in God, he will do everything.’ This frustrates me when people believe the Lord has to act on their behalf. Trust does not mean do nothing. Often we don’t know how to hear from God or care to, for that matter. Our egos may tell us that we have enough. We don’t have ‘time’ for God.
You mean, the huge white-bearded man in the sky? Why cater to him or ask for his input one may think. But we need God. He is more than an outside force who created everything. His voice comes from within. When we listen to God, we accomplish a lot more for ourselves, for our family–for humankind.
The more you focus on him, the easier it will get. Go into a quiet place. Get away from the noise. Meditate on his word. Ask. And then wait to hear back. The answer often comes from your intuition and can even come from others. But please be careful with the ‘hearing from others.’ They can steer you their way, and when their voices outweigh your own and God’s than you are in the danger zone. Listen: ‘anything pure, anything whole, anything that is beautiful and good comes from God.’
You can spend time with God wherever you are. When you are praying, you are receiving. Whether you realize it or not, God is giving. The Holy Spirit guides you. But once you ask, there is an unfolding of events. You eventually get your answers.
Let me also just say that fitness in your body creates fitness in your mind also. It helps me write better. I have more energy during the day. Exercise enables you to deal with situations better.
I reached my goal of getting up to one hour of straight cardio. It’s an achievement I set out to complete. Let me let you in on a little secret: you have to get into “the zone.” Once you get into that zone where fatigue cannot affect you any longer and where you keep going no matter what–it becomes a mental game. Sure, you’ll be tired, but you will persist. You know you will succeed no matter what. After exercising, you will feel motivated. It’s the most excellent feeling.
You may not see your miracle or dream occurring, but something is happening behind the scenes—this is what the essence of faith is: The ability to see something good in your life with no evidence of it. You create the experience! An outstanding doctor of mind once said, “The body takes time to catch up to the mind.” If you decide to do something in your mind, your body will eventually follow. If you are achieving it in your brain, you will achieve it in your body, also.
When and where do you pray? Are you able to take prayer outside of church or a religious institution? I’ve told others that just talking to God is the best form. You can share your thoughts, give him prayer requests, and give him thanks for the blessings he’s bestowed. God wants to hear about all your worries, hopes, and concerns. God wants to be there! God wants to be a part of your everyday. He loves you more than you know. Start talking with him today!
Sooner or later, the inspiration (or answer) to your prayer will come. It is hard to discern God’s voice sometimes, but the Holy Spirit lives within us. And good thoughts about yourself and others come from above. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
If your thoughts are pure, kind, and not adverse, this inspiration comes from the Lord. The fruit of the spirit is love. He will give you wisdom in how to overcome challenges. But he will not inspire you to think evil about yourself or anyone. I have made a point to try and listen to Bible verses every day, but sometimes I fail and just read some online instead. Sometimes I listen and it lasts for a few hours; this helps to strengthen my faith and defeat any forms of depression.
What strategies do you use? Do you read the Bible? If so, which parts are your favorite? Why do you like those verses? How often do you study the Word? If you have not read it, when can you start? I like the NIV version. The ESV is good also because it is more modern and precise than the New King James. Maybe you can write out a study plan. My favorite Psalms are 69, 71, 74, and 77. Do you have any favorite ones? Another book I like is the Book of Acts, and it is in the Bible. You can also focus on reading the Bible for a minimum of fifteen minutes here (instead of writing in this section) or meditate on your favorite Bible verses.
You can even copy passages onto paper. I have done that. That way, you can repeat them over. It is a great way to strengthen your faith. If you are not familiar with the Bible and don’t know where to start, I recommend that you start at the New Testament’s gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
What is one thing that stands in the way of you accomplishing your goals? Is it a lack of faith, fear of failure, business with other tasks, or a time issue? I have learned you have to make time for the extra things. No one is going to do it for you. For example, I like to write. I have a full online teaching schedule, and I could add more students if I wanted to. But here is the thing, when you focus on your dreams, you feel a release. Not that your ‘day job’ does not matter. I love to help people overcome academic obstacles. It is rewarding, but when you focus on that one extra thing you love to do: it makes your heart happier.
My ‘extra thing’ is to write. What is yours? I have always written. I used to win contests in grade school. One of my worst memories was losing my first storybook from construction paper in the second grade. I searched the whole house and could not find it. It was such a significant loss. The first big one I ever had. If writing is not a passion, what makes you feel happier? I have done a lot of it, and I don’t regret all the hours I put into it. It has made me write better!
God has put us here to help one another and see each other through, but we each have a creative side or something we are naturally ‘good at’ or attracted to. For some, it is to paint or make music. I like to cook and bake also. Since I started doing the Mediterranean, I am not doing as much. What is one thing you would like to improve or get better at? Would you like to follow a diet plan? Try your best to keep your calories under 1,500 per day if you’re a woman and under 2,000 if you are a man. That way, you could potentially lose atleast one pound per week. What are your goals, dreams, or what is it you want to accomplish? Feel free to answer all the questions above that I’ve asked (or again, simply meditate on the bible) in your journal!
Zina Hermez has authored the Best-selling book, Not Without God: A Story of Survival. She’s been featured in numerous articles, guest posts, podcasts, websites, newsletters, and magazines. She’s been featured on ESPN’s ‘Solutions from the Huddle’ broadcast and on Grace and Truth Radio World. Zina’s written hundreds of articles and has taught thousands of students. Additionally she’s appeared in Christianity Today, the Suite T blog, and Southern Writers magazine among other places. She writes on faith, science, and overcoming adversity. She is also a major foodie and loves to help others. You can connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, Linked In, or Twitter.