Molding & Shaping
Have you ever pondered on what it means to be conformed to the image of Christ? We read the scriptures about being conformed, transformed, molded, and shaped, and we tend to take them at face value. It’s not often that we even consider the deeper implications of these words. “Conformed” literally means to be matched up with something else. What does Christ look like? What has to transpire for me to be shaped into that image? Does it include becoming a widow?
The NASB translation of Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters;”
This verse isn’t so much about predestination (as is often argued) as it is about defining the “good” of the preceding verse. God’s definition of “good” often seems much different than mine! His definition of “good” has to do with my being transformed/conformed to the image of Christ. He never promises that my life will be easy, or that everything will flow along in perfect order. Rather, He promises whatever it takes to mold me into the image of Christ!
So, how do we typically change the shape or the appearance of something? The answer is really quite clear! We apply pressure, we cut, chop, pound, apply heat, or maybe even melt it and pour it into a mold. In other words, the object being transformed goes through a great deal of stress and pain (if it were a feeling object!).
As we begin to compare this process to God’s work in our lives, the seasons of pain and suffering begin to take on purpose and meaning. The Father’s goal in all of the events that impact our lives is to give us opportunity to grow in our character, daily becoming more like Jesus. God seems to have His eye on the final product, whereas I’m here on earth living day-to-day. Some days I struggle to respond with joy and gratitude over the fact that He called my spouse home too soon….at least in my opinion! Oh, I’m happy for Dave, but truth be told, I’m not always so happy for me!
No matter how hard we try, we truly can’t avoid asking God the “why” question, can we? But look!
II Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,
so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.”
Part of the final goal lies in the fact that we absolutely have no power to change anything about ourselves short of looking to Him. When our character becomes more like Christ, we reflect His glory. We can try with all our might to be more Christlike, but ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit is the only power that will shape us into the image of Jesus.
Psalm 12:6 gives us a clue as to another reason for the suffering in our lives. “The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.” All of the events, both painful and joyful have pointed us in one direction: perfecting the image of Christ in us. Silver that has been melted and purified seven times is at its most pure state. So, it is with us. Every time we experience one of those painful seasons…those times where we’re convinced that we will never make it….when it feels like we won’t emerge from the suffering…that’s when our character is taking another step towards perfection. As the Apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians, we only see part of the picture now. He says it’s like looking through tinted glass, but one day everything will become clear and will make perfect sense.
Until then, our primary directive (for all you Trekkies out there) is to draw close to the Lord during those difficult and painful times and learn to trust that He knows what He’s doing as He walks through it with us towards the end result.
The Bible has a lot to say about the concept of God being a potter and we humans being the clay that He is forming into many kinds of vessels. Isaiah 64:8 says, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father, We are the clay and You our potter. And all of us are the work of Your hand.”
As we wrap up our thinking on this subject of being molded and shaped, let me remind you of where we started. Being shaped and formed into something other than our natural state often takes pressure, heat, cutting, or melting. It’s painful for us, but God has an ultimate goal in mind and is working relentlessly in our lives. Give Him your pain, and He will exchange it for peace. As you yield to the process, you will once again begin to experience joy…just little sparks at first…but it will continue to grow. One day you will look back from a distance and agree with God that He truly had a bigger picture in mind.
I want to share with you three stanzas of an old hymn called “Have Thine Own Way, Lord”. I remember singing this as a kid growing up in church, and today it comes to mind as a pattern for us as widows. We didn’t ask for this pain and emotional loss, but as we submit quietly to His work, we will reflect Jesus in ways that wouldn’t be possible without this season.
1 Have thine own way, Lord!
Have thine own way!
Thou art the potter,
I am the clay.
Mold me and make me
after thy will,
while I am waiting,
yielded and still.
3 Have thine own way, Lord!
Have thine own way!
Wounded and weary,
help me I pray!
Power, all power,
surely is thine!
Touch me and heal me,
4 Have thine own way, Lord!
Have thine own way!
Hold o’er my being
Fill with thy Spirit
till all shall see
Christ only, always,
living in me!