Recently, when the thermometer had been consistently dipping below the freezing mark and water was turning to ice, my daughter called to urge us to go see the waterfall in Rider Lake.
While the waterfall was not completely frozen, the ice formations on the sides were really something to see! (the photos don't quite do it justice, sorry)
For ice to form, the rigours of nature freeze water bit by bit into a holding prison. Instead of a soft moving flow of liquid it is turned into a solid cold mass, with potential to do harm if large chucks of it fall onto hapless passers-by or if it turns safe roads into slippery unpredictability.
And yet, as I stood gazing at the ice formations framing the centrally still flowing waterfall, I was struck with how ice that could be potentially dangerous could also be incredibly beautiful in variety of design.
As I contemplated, my thoughts turned to the pressures we experience in life and how we are affected by them. We prefer to be 'free flowing' with nothing to hinder our plans or desires. But life isn't like that. Too often we find ourselves imprisoned by circumstance beyond our control and we are frozen, unable to move at will.
At that point, we have a choice -- will we be a potential danger to others, as well as ourselves or will people stop to admire the beauty 'pressure' has created in our character, attitude or wisdom.
We learn best under pressure, though we never choose it - it comes uninvited and unbidden. And yet, it is God who is in control... it is He who knows what pressures will bring forth the best in us, if we submit to its molding work. Submit and let Him create beauty or resist and by our reactions/attitudes create potential for harm.
I have been studying James... and the first verses speak to the pressures that are part of our lives... ".. Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience... let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect , complete , lacking nothing!" James 1:2-4
Count it JOY ? when we are 'frozen' into place, in a cold uncomfortable place when we would rather be 'free' ? I do not believe that James is suggesting we be masochists taking pleasure in suffering -- I think he is directing us to focus on the 'beauty' that God can bring out of the pressures He allows in our lives. Beauty of character in us - lacking nothing - but also the effect we can have on those who 'stop to look' at what has been wrought in our lives and in turn inspires them to reach for the best in their lives.
None of us enjoy the 'chill' of suffering, of feeling the pressure suffering puts upon us ... but if we can trust that God can even here bring forth beauty in us, that there is indeed a purpose in the difficult things in our life - then perhaps the suffering becomes easier to bear!
As it says In I Peter 1:6,7
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trial, that the genuineness of your faith , being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ!"