February 20, 2009
The Whitening Process
“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow.”
Psalm 51:7 (NIV)
When my dental hygienist of a mom gave me a free whitening kit from her dentist’s office, I was elated. The cost of the whitening treatment had been far too expensive for me in the past, so I had never pursued it. But free I could do! Unfortunately, I quickly discovered this whole teeth whitening thing wasn’t the blissful experience I had anticipated. It was far more painful and complicated than I understood when I began. As I thought about this, I realized it was a parallel to the Christian life.
Whitening is painful. The chemicals they use in the bleaching process can cause pain. The nerves under the gum-line that are exposed to these chemicals can really hurt, making things you used to do without thinking—like eating, for example—impossible. I thought about how this applies to God’s process of making us white as snow, as today’s verse says. We want that process to be quick and easy. We don’t want Him to make things we used to do to become painful or unpleasant. And yet, by exposing those nerves—the stuff we keep hidden under the surface—we are forced to change things about ourselves. We don’t want the pain, and yet sometimes pain is the only thing that will cause the change God wants to bring about in us.
Whitening takes a long time. I was asking my mom why they don’t just make a product that works in one application. Why does this process have to be so drawn out? “Because,” she answered, “The chemicals are so harsh you couldn’t take it all in one application, so they break it up a little at a time.” I thought about how gentle and loving our Heavenly Father is, allowing us to go through a process of refinement, instead of being exposed to more than we can take all at once. He leads us along the path of righteousness – a journey. He never gives us more than we can take, balancing just the right amount of pain mixed with just the right amount of perfectly timed relief. It might take longer than we want, but we can find peace in knowing that the end-result will be worth waiting for.
Whitening isn’t convenient. I couldn’t find an ideal time to submit myself to this process. Finding three hours to wear a tray full of chemicals in my mouth just wasn’t happening. The refiner’s fire is like this. It is never convenient and it certainly won’t fit into your neatly ordered life to develop the character of Christ. And if you wait until you are “ready” to submit to it with your whole heart, well, it likely will never get done. God wants us to come before Him and say, “I will make the time to undergo what You have for me, because I want to be all I can for You, Lord.” When He hears this from us, He moves within our lives to bring about dazzling change.
God’s whitening process—it might not be easy, or tidy, or even close to what we expected, but we can trust it will be for the best.
Dear Lord, the cry of David’s heart is the cry of my heart: I want You to cleanse me, to make me whiter than snow. I understand that pain, discomfort and inconvenience will be part of that process. Help me to submit to that process every step of the way and to trust You at all times. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Pierced By the Word: 31 Meditations for Your Soul by John Piper
For the Write Reason General Editor Marybeth Whalen
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Sit quietly with the Lord asking Him, “Lord, what areas in my life need to be cleaned?”
Enlist the encouragement of a good friend in Christ for accountability in making and keeping the choice to be refined.
Have you gone through a painful time that you can now see was part of your “whitening process”?
Do you struggle with submitting yourself to the inconvenience of God’s maturation process?
I Peter 4:12-13, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (NIV)
Psalm 23:3, “He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (NIV)
Zechariah 13:9, “This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’” (NIV)
© 2009 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
Matthews, NC 28105