In his book Changed Into His Image, Jim Berg writes,
When we take a tea bag, place it in a teacup, and fill the cup with hot water, the water activates the tea in the bag, unleashing its taste into the water around it. The hot water didn’t create the taste; it merely revealed, or drew out, what was already in the bag.
This depicts what happens in the human heart. The pressures around us (the unfavorable circumstances, the temptations, and the commands of God to love Him and our neighbor) merely draw out of our heart what is already in it.1
When God took away his possessions, his family, and his health, Job found himself in this kind of hot water.
What do we see revealed in Job’s heart?
This is what God says to Satan during Satan’s second visit, AFTER Job has lost his family and his possessions:
“Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.”Job 2:3
Job then loses his health, and his wife tells him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9).
Jim Berg continues his tea bag illustration with the example of Paul and Silas, who have just been unfairly beaten and imprisoned:
The “hot water” of suffering revealed the nature of the hearts of these two men. We see their response in the next verse: “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” While other believers might react to such mistreatment with bitterness and anger or with despair and discouragement, Paul and Silas responded with praise and thanksgiving. Why the difference? The hearts of these men had been changed to be like the heart of Christ, who responded in a similar fashion to His suffering.
We see the same response in Job. He didn’t give in to fear, didn’t give way to anger, didn’t surrender to self-pity.
Instead, he knew the character of God. He yielded to the sovereignty of God. And he believed in the promises of God.
The true test of character is not when we have but when we don’t have, not when we receive but when we lose.
How are you responding to the loss of your health? Your strength, your beauty, your abilities, your independence, your dreams?
Are you still trusting God? Do you believe His promises? Can you worship Him through the pain?
It’s hard. I know it is. Hot water is painful. Valleys are scary. Suffering is not what we asked for.
But suffering doesn’t just build character, it reveals character.
And our character–how we respond to suffering–is crucial, not only for our own spiritual life but also for the influence we may have on others. When they see us hurting in the hot water of suffering, can they also smell the sweet aroma of our Christlike character (II Cor 2:14), like the pleasant scent drifting from a warm cup of tea? Do they recognize the fortitude, the quiet trust, the joy in the midst of pain that Christ provides for those who walk with Him?
Wherever you are in your valley, don’t let go. Don’t let go of God, don’t let go of His promises, don’t let go of the hope that He always offers. Don’t let go of the Christlike character He’s built and is building in you.
Hold on to God. He’ll get you through.
1Jim Berg, Changed Into His Image: God’s Plan for Transforming Your Life. Bob Jones University Press, 2000, pp 3-4.