The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

How Coal Becomes Diamond in the Christian Life

Posted on: October 04, 2016



For a number of weeks now we have been exploring the issue of coping with trials in the Christian life. When things are going relatively well for a Christian, this subject may seem academic or distant. But there are times in the lives of some Christians when trials simply take over, and we must lay hold of truth in order to keep going.

Timothy Keller has written a magnificent book entitled, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. In it he draws on both Scripture and personal experience to help Christians understand not only God’s purposes in allowing trials, but also strategies for coping with them.

One of his strategies for coping with trials is to suggest that it is in the midst of trials that we may have the greatest opportunity to triumph in the spiritual battles of life.

There can be no heroes without battles, and there can be no great deliverances without great problems. Therefore it is only in the face of battles, it is only in the face of great problems that we have the privilege of seeing God move in major ways in our lives, and we have the privilege of rising, by His grace, to higher ground.

As I read what Keller wrote about triumphing in the spiritual battle, I found it deeply meaningful. But then I also added my own commentary to a short quote from the book that I wrote out, to make it even more applicable to my circumstances and even more compelling to my own struggles. I have written it out below in the hope that you may benefit from it deeply as I have. Keller’s words are in normal font and my words are in italics:

“When we are… in unrelenting darkness…, we have the greatest opportunity to triumph over the forces of evil. In the darkness we have a choice that is not really there in better times. We can choose to serve God just because he is God.”

After a while, in the Christian life, we tend to take for granted God’s spiritual blessings… the safety of holiness, the rewards of love, joy, and peace, the freedom of repentance and forgiveness, the hope of eternal life and glory.  

Then, having taken them for granted, they become invisible, and we begin to long for the temporal blessings of health, wealth and self-fulfillment, and may begin to resent God for not giving us our desired share of temporal blessings rather than to be grateful for the wellspring of spiritual and eternal blessings He has given us.

So, in the darkest moments, we feel we are getting absolutely nothing out of God or out of our relationship to him. We are, of course. They are just momentarily invisible to us.

“But what if then— when it does not seem to be paying or benefiting you at all— you continue to obey, pray to, and seek God, as well as continue to do your duties of love to others? If we do that— we are finally learning to love God for himself, and not for his earthly benefits. And when the darkness lifts or lessens, we will find that our dependence on other things besides God for our happiness has shrunk, and that we have new strength and contentment in God himself. We’ll find a new fortitude, unflappability, poise, and peace in the face of difficulty. The coal is becoming diamond. Many believers have experienced this peace of God. It is not just positive thinking or willpower. It is a sense that no matter what happens, everything will ultimately be all right, even though it may not be at all right at the moment.” (Adapted from Keller, Timothy (2013-10-01). Walking with God through Pain and Suffering (Kindle Locations 3918-3925). Penguin Publishing Group)

I have a list of affirmations that I review daily. I included this “Keller quote” adaptation at the end of those affirmations, and while I do not review this particular quote daily, I do review it often.

The trigger for reviewing is when I begin to feel that God has turned from me and is off to another part of the world doing more interesting things with more important people.

He is not, of course. Each of us is equally important to God. However,

the “God’s abandoned me” lie is sometimes easy to believe in the darkness of the moment.

So, to fight the deception, I review Keller’s wisdom, which helps get me back on track.

Your point of vulnerability might be other things: physical pain, broken relationships, financial worries, unmet goals or desires, personal insecurities, emotional bondages, spiritual struggles, etc.

In the face of spiritual darkness, draw on Keller’s wisdom to help you in, and through, the darkness. As you do, it will help you triumph and the “coal become diamond.”


UPDATE: Click Me! to download your Coal to Diamond” Affirmation Mini-Poster

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