Diamonds are beautiful and valuable gemstones, but their beginning is common carbon—black, dirty, and combustible. Through years of intense heat and high pressure, they become pure and strong. This makes them a good metaphor for spiritual strength; God uses intense outside forces to rid us of impurities and to perfect His strength in us.

God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness, says the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 12:9). I wish this were not true because I hate being weak. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments taught me more than I ever wanted to know about physical weakness. Then a minor event plunged me into a state of emotional weakness that caught me off guard. After losing 3 feet of hair and being bald for nearly a year, one bad haircut should not have been a big deal. But it was, and I felt silly for being so weak. Some of us are able to create an illusion of strength and self-sufficiency. But sudden loss of health, employment, or a treasured relationship is a startling reminder of our total dependence on God.

When we experience the fiery furnace of suffering—whether physical or emotional, whether persecution from without or humiliation from within—God’s loving purpose is to make us pure and strong.