“I have refined thee in the furnace of affliction.” I – Isiah 48:10
No one is immune from the refining process that is affliction and the degree to which we grow from our trials has, in large measure, to do with our strength of heart. It is a cycle. Strength of heart comes through effort, trial and perserverance.
I earned money as a teenager by cutting and selling cedar posts which farmers and ranchers used to build fences and corrals. My father made it clear to me that the most sought after cedar posts were those with a big heart, the dark center of the tree.. I understood what he meant when he showed me what happens to the post after years of being planted in the ground. The process of decay destroys the outer, or cambian, layer of the tree leaving only the heart. The posts with a large center heart are still solidly implanted in the ground while those with a small heart no longer stand straight and weaken the fence.
He then taught me that cedar posts which come from trees that grow where water and nutrients are readily available have a large cambian layer but a small heart. Trees that grow on hill sides or in ravines where water and nutrients are hard to come by have a smaller cambian layer but the heart is large. These are the most sought after cedar posts.
The human heart, although not the center of feelings or emotion, is a symbol of compassion, strength and power for human endeavor. We speak endearingly of those who “have a big heart” and we credit having a strong heart for individual ability to endure and survive affliction and trial but it is a curious cycle.
As the prophet said, “I have refined thee in the furnace of affliction.” Enduring affliction builds within us a strong heart but it is a strong heart that carries us onward when trials come. As with the most sought after cedar post, our heart and our character is strengthened in adversity.