Let it Refine You

Well hey everyone!  It’s good to be back.  I planned on taking a little break but it just ended up being a little longer than planned.  But that’s ok, because that’s kind of how life is right?  We think we have it all figured out or we have a plan and then the Lord comes in and says, “nope, I’ve got something else prepared for you…it’s going to be hard but it’s something better.”  

And that’s kind of how I feel about this whole past year.  I was looking back recently at some of the goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the year and I am nowhere near where I thought I would be because of the circumstances that I went through in the beginning months of this year.  And you know what?  I am not even unhappy about it!

 I feel like I am in such a better place than what I would have been.  I don’t know for sure, I mean my situation today would certainly look different than it does.  But I can most assuredly tell you that I see the hand of the Lord working in and over my life in so many ways as I look back and as I see things unfolding before me looking forward.

It’s a marvelous thing to have the spirit of the Lord guiding and directing you as you go.  But in that, there is a lot of ongoing work that has to take place to get to that point.

 As you may have guessed from the title I’m going to talk just a little bit about the refining process that we go through when faced with trials, challenges, adversity, etc. And how we can gain the inner strength to let them be a refining process rather than a defining process. 

It is the 50th episode!!!  YAY!!!! I felt like I should definitely lean in to what we are all about here at “pointing toward hope”.  And I feel like the pieces for this episode have kind of been collecting over the last several days as I have had mini moments of inspiration when things that I heard or read or dreamt just sunk in.  So I am going to try to collect all of those things and hopefully organize them into something that will be meaningful and impactful for you as you listen today.

I found a great talk By Ellen W. Smoot from April 2002 General Conference talk Called Developing Inner Strength.  I will be referring to that  throughout this podcast and will link it in the notes.  I loved this question she posed.  “How do you and I become so converted to the truth, so full of faith, so dependent on God that we are able to meet trials and even be strengthened by them?”

That just got me thinking about how we sometimes tend to lean into our trials more than lean into the Lord.  If that makes sense. 

For example, we might tend to say this is just who I am, this is how it’s always gonna be and there isn’t a thing that I can do about it.  So in my situation instead of saying I HAVE bipolar, it becomes I AM bipolar.  Which is a totally false statement.  

Do you see the difference? To say I AM something… is basically removing the possibility that I can change it from something that defines me. Just changing that one word or that one negative feeling, can allow me to turn it into something that refines me and grows me as a person if I let it.  

From my standpoint, having Bipolar is definitely not something I enjoy. But it’s definitely not who I AM either.  Changing my view of it has allowed me to turn something that has such a negative connotation into something of a miracle.

When YOU do this, then you can see the opportunity in the trial to make it into something miraclous. Something that will strengthen you from the inside to the outside.

Personally, I have worked really hard to take that feeling of being defined by my trial to being strengthened by and through it. I’ve tried to turn it into something positive that I can learn and grow from rather than feeling defeated by it. Which is not easy at all!  To be honest, somedays it just downright stinks and I do feel totally defeated by it. There are just so many negative feelings that surround it.  

I don’t think that I’m alone in that, when it comes to trials or adversity.  There are a lot of situations where negative feelings and thinking take place. Thinking that you are defined by your trial, can happen with a lot of different types of experiences that we go through. 

There are so many big traumatic parts of your life for sure!  I am not diminishing those experiences in any way!  

However, I feel like our tendency as human beings having an Earthly experience, we do tend to want to let those things define us or maybe we tend to look at them with negative thoughts and feelings. Like this is how other people define me or describe me.

I mean I could fall into that category very easily by letting those labels that are thrown around so lightly, be overwhelming and  defeating.  But I have gotten to the point where when someone says something like, “So and so is so dramatic and does this and this and this, they are definitely Bipolar”.  I can blow that off.  It always stings a little and sometimes I want to get defensive about it.  But I’ve learned that I can’t take things like that personally.  And you have to understand that when someone says something hurtful in a situation like that, they probably don’t have any idea that you were hurt.  So why make yourself a victim over it?

Anyway, I kind of got sidetracked there for a little bit but I want you to just take a second and think about some of the things in your life that you see as negative experiences or trials.  Maybe it’s not a sickness or illnes. Maybe it’s something that happened when you were a child, a mistake you made, or something that happened unexpectedly that has changed your life immensely.  We’ve all experienced that in the last two years haven’t we?  

The point I’m trying to get at is, can we try to see ourselves and our trials as a growing, learning, refining process? Think of it as being purified and polished just as a piece of metal when it’s being molded? And I’ll talk a bit more about that in a minute.

Recently, there was a brilliant woman that gave a talk in my church.  And I think her talk was what kind of started the ball rolling for me.  She gave so many good nuggets of wisdom.  Her topic was having gratitude through adversity.  That kind of sounds like an oxymoron, right?  I mean how do you have gratitude when you’re going through really difficult situations? 

While I was listening to her speak (it was a phenomenal talk btw) I kept having a thought run through my mind that I’d heard someone say on a podcast that I listen to.  “Sometimes the miracle is IN the tragedy”.  I don’t know why I was thinking that specific thought, but maybe it was because when we are going through something, anything really, if we try to look at it from a different perspective (which is what I think having gratitude in adversity means), then the whole experience can become a beautiful miracle.

At the end of this woman’s talk she said one thing that I have talked about before here on the podcast. And if you weren’t paying attention to her talk then you would have missed it.  She said, when it comes to hard things and being grateful for them, think of them as refining you, NOT defining you!  And even though I’ve said it myself many times, the way she paired it with gratitude just made me look at it from a little different perspective.  

There is a video that I have watched and I’ll try to link it if I can find it again.  About the process that a Blacksmith goes through when refining metal.  I’m not sure if you are familiar with the process but let me just explain somewhat. It is a long and grueling process that requires intense heat and repeated hammering. A refiner is really good at knowing when the fire is hot enough but not too hot!  And you also have to use fire and water, and you need to know how to use both of them together.  And the reason is because the Blacksmith (or the refiner) needs to be able to bend and mold that piece of metal into something completely different.  Free from impurities and something polished and beautiful.

Nobody wants to go through a refining process, right?  I mean it is super intense.  But in this process from what I understand the refiner is right there the whole time.  He is completely in the entire process.  The metal can not be left alone.  There are certain things that need to happen at certain times.  And you love this because in Isaiah, he teaches us about what our refiner, meaning Jesus Christ is like, when he says this in 

Chapter 43:1-3  1 But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob (insert your name), and he that formed thee, O Israel (insert your name), Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.

2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

3 For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour…

So He’s basically saying, Don’t you worry, I am going to be here every step of the way.  I love you and I’m not going to leave you!

Is’nt that just so cool?  He knows when the water comes and you feel like you’re drowning, He’s gonna be there!  He knows when you feel like you are walking through fire and the heat is too intense and you want to give up, He’s gonna be there!

He is our refiner.  

So I want you to remember that process as we talk about a couple of other mini moments of inspiration that I had this past week.  So I was reading the Book of Heleman, and if you are familiar with this part of the Book Mormon, it is part of the war chapters and it can be difficult chapters to get through.  But I determined when I started the war chapters back in Alma that I was going to get something to apply to my life out of these chapters.  And you guys,  I feel like the Lord answered my prayers on that so completely.  I have really had so many mini moments.  So I encourage you to really dig into those chapters and see if you can’t grab some gold nuggets out of there.  

Anyway, back to Helaman it is Chapter 3 So just a refresher this is a time when many people are dissenting from the church and persecuting members of the church.  At that time Nephi the son of Helaman is filling the judgement seat and he decides that because of the persecution they are going to leave Zarahemla and move to the land Northward.  And it says it was a great distance. And you know they didn’t have cars and carts and all that back then. So I’m sure they were traveling with everything on their backs or their donkeys.  It was probably extremely hot and they were thirsty and it was super hard.  

And it says they crossed over many waters and rivers (remember the water and the heat of the refiner’s fire?).  And when they arrived it was a land called Desolate.  Why? Because there was nothing on the land it was barron, everyone!  And so what did they do.  In verse 7 it says this: nevertheless the people who went forth became exceedingly aexpert…..  And then it goes on to say how they built houses and when trees grew they took care of them until they could use them.  They built cities!  So they took this trial that was upon them and they turned it into something amazing. And the Lord was with them through every step.

But then in verse 16 I believe, it was Mormon talking here.  He goes back to before they left Zarahemla to explain what was happening there and what caused them to leave.  And the following verse is what stopped me that morning.   

35 It reads  Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.

And that’s the word that caught me, everyone! Yielding.  What happens when we yield?  We give others the right of way, right?  So in this case they are yielding their hearts to the Lord!  They are turning it over to the Lord knowing that he will sanctify them and purify them.  Just like a Blacksmith does with the metal.  When it is under that intense heat it is purifying it.  Jesus is our refiner!  He sees things from a much grander perspective.  He can turn us into something beautiful.  Something so much more than we can achieve on our own.  

It just gives me chills when I think about how many times the Savior has walked with me through my trials, and turned them into a miracle.

It reminds me of when I was younger and I went through a pretty hard experience with some friends.  I won’t get into the details, but I will tell you that it was something that happened to me way back when I was barely 13.  And it concerned being bullied. 

So you can imagine at 13, you are at such an impressionable age and you’re molding your identity and just changing so much and trying to figure out who you are. 

And just at the peak of that time in my life is when this experience happened.  It was an event that happened because of something careless that I said to someone, not thinking anything of it.  Someone walking behind us heard it, and within minutes….. I’m not even kidding.  I was surrounded by a group of girls pointing and laughing and bullying me.  My friends that were with me when they surrounded me, quickly slipped out of the circle.  And I felt so alone at that moment. 

And to make matters worse, the bullying continued for several weeks.  To the point that the principal and parents got involved.  It was really quite hard as a 13 year old.  I remember days when I thought I just couldn’t go to school.  I would get stomach aches thinking about it.  It still makes me anxious to this day. 

But it was during that time that I decided to yield my heart to the Lord.  What did he want me to do?  I decided that I needed to have my patriarchal blessing. 

So we scheduled it.  And I was determined that I was going to prepare myself and be so ready for this because I really, really needed to hear from the Lord himself that everything was going to be ok.  

So I did those things from verse 35… I fasted and I prayed and I humbled myself and I had faith that the Lord would come to me. Or at least be with me during this fire that I was experiencing. I yielded my heart to Him with all that I had. 

Well the night came that we were to go to the blessing and I remember so distinctly like it was yesterday.  I was so nervous and my palms were sweating and my stomach was growling and the Patriarch seemed to talk forever before he started the blessing.  

And so he began… it was still and quiet except for when his clock chimed at the beginning.  And at that moment I got my miracle.  In the midst of my trial I recieved a miracle.  It wasn’t from the words that were said, because honestly he was very well spoken and I didn’t understand a lot of the big words he used.  Or the way he worded it.  It was like scripture.  But…. I do remember how I felt.  When his hands and my father’s hands were on my head and the patriarch called upon the priesthood power, I felt a tangible presence like I’d nver known before.  And it stayed with me until the clock chimed again and the patriarch closed the prayer.  

It was so powerful that as we were driving home I remember asking my dad if someone else had joined them in the prayer.  He was surprised at that of course and I explained what I had felt.  And my parent’s and I were all in awe at the sacredness of that moment.  He was there to let me know that He was with me every step of the way.

When I got my blessing and read it.  There was one little part that talked about the friends I would have in my life.  And some counsel on the importance of choosing good friends. 

One thing that I determined at that time, is that I would do everything in my power to never make anyone feel the way I had through that experience

It left such an impression on me that I have never doubted the power of the priesthood.  And I never hesitated to call upon it in times of great need. 

Would I have been able to have that experience if I hadn’t gone through the bullying and felt abandoned by my friends?  Maybe, but I don’t think so.  I had to go through that trial to experience the miracle.

So let’s go back to talking about finding that inner strength to keep moving forward. As we have been studying the Doctrine in Covenants, in come follow me, about all the horrible things that the early members of the church went through, it has made me think more about where that inner strength comes from.

“In sister Smoot’s talk she shares an experience from a Pioneer woman who traveled across the plains from Navoo, ILL to Utah.

She shared the following: “To demonstrate the kind of inner strength I am talking about, I would like to share the story of Susanna Stone Lloyd, who at the age of 26 left England in 1856 and traveled to Utah alone. The only member of her family to join the Church, Susanna was a member of the Willie Handcart Company. Like so many other pioneers, she endured life-threatening hunger, illness, and fatigue.

Upon arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, Susanna borrowed a mirror to make herself more presentable. Despite her best efforts, she recounts: “I shall never forget how I looked. Some of my old friends did not know me.” Having sold her own mirror to an Indian for a piece of buffalo meat, she had not spent much time looking at herself. Now she did not recognize her own image. She was a different person, both inside and out. Over the course of rocky ridges and extreme hardship came a deep conviction. Her faith had been tried, and her conversion was concrete. She had been refined in ways that the very best mirror could not reflect. Susanna had prayed for strength and found it—deep within her soul.

If someone like Susannah can take a horrible situation like that and turn it into something so beautiful, can we?  I am sure that she had to dig pretty deep within her soul to find the strength that comes in and through our Savior.  Because let’s face it.  We don’t get through these experiences without divine intervention.  We can try.  But speaking from experience, it sure is a lot harder when we try to do it alone.  Without the help of our refiner.

We can walk through the fire on our own.  We can feel like we’re drowning in our adversity.  We can be hammered over and over again by the  happenings of this mortal life. But it is so much more doable when we allow our Refiner, Jesus Christ, to be a part of the process.  This proving process.  This refining and growing and polishing process.  Yes it stinks.  Yes it hurts.  But at some point we will be able to look back and see the tiny mercies.  The little miracles.  And in the end.  If we endure it well, we can come out having been molded into something beautiful that anyone who looked upon us would just say, “wow”!

Have you ever done that when you have seen something that someone made that was so intricate and detailed and beautiful that all you can say is, “wow”?  That’s the kind of miracle I’m talking about.

I promise you, everyone.  You CAN receive a miracle in the midst of your trial.  I have no doubt that the Savior is walking with you through it!  He is in the process every step of the way.  He won’t leave you.  He can’t leave you!  In order for you to be molded through the fires of life He has to remain by your side, so that the right things happen at the right time.

Lean on Him.  Trust Him.  Pray and fast often.  Be humble and YIELD your heart to him.  Let him take the lead.  And then follow Him!  I beg you to follow Him with all of your refined and purified and polished heart! 

That’s it for today my friends! If you or a friend have had an experience that you’d like to share.  Please contact me, I’d love to have you on the show. Talk to you again soon!

Author: Wendy Bertagnolli

Welcome to the pointing toward hope blog! I'm so glad that you found me. In this blog I share thoughts about my personal journey of living with Bipolar. I love sharing things that I hope will help you and others in their journey. But I am not defined by Bipolar. I am so much more. I'm a wife, a sister, a daughter, a mother, a grandmother a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and so much more! I hope you'll join me on this journey of finding joy in daily living. Though we may suffer daily with various ailments or situations, joy is possible. It's not elusive. We can point our compass toward hope. We can choose to live!

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