God uses problems to direct me, inspect me, correct me, protect me, and finally God uses the problems in my life to perfect me. In Romans 5:3-4, Paul tells us, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and 17 refiners firetrials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady.”

In the New Testament we seem to find the picture of the Gardner or vinedresser with Jesus representing the vine itself and we’re the branches. God, the great horticulturist does the pruning. Jesus teaches us that pruning seems to for productivity. It’s the pruning which helps us become more fruitful. The Old Testament writers seem to use the idea of the refiner to talk about God’s work in our lives. Just as the silversmith purifies the silver through his furnace, God also purifies His people through the furnace of affliction. This refinement process is designed to make us holy rather than productive. So both processes are designed to perfect us. Pruning makes us better at producing fruit. Refining makes us more like Christ.

The thing to remember is that both processes are painful, but both processes can work out for the best in all of our lives. The determining factor, however, is always how I respond to my life’s problems. Responding biblically will always bring great advances in character and productivity. I love what the old commentator, Alexander Maclaren said, “The true meaning of life is not to be found by estimating its sorrows or its joys, but by trying to estimate the effects of either upon us. The true value of life, and the meaning of all its tears and of all its joys, is what it makes us. … He who carries away with him out of life a character molded as God would have it, does not go in all points ‘naked as he came.’ He bears a developed self, and that is the greatest treasure that a man can carry out of multitudinous toils of the busiest life. If we would think less of our hard work and of our heavy sorrows, and more of the loving purpose which appoints them all, we should find life less difficult, less toilsome, and less mysterious. That one thought taken to our hearts, and honestly applied to everything that befalls us, would untie many a riddle, would wipe away many a tear, would bring peace and patience into many a heart, and would make still brighter many a gladness. Without it our lives are a chaos; with it they would become an ordered world.”