Ulfberht. No, that’s not a typo. It’s the name for a special type of Viking sword that far exceeded the quality of any other European sword of its era. Where other swords would shatter, Ulfberhts were able to bend and still keep their edge. This was a huge advantage on the field of battle, where one’s life depended on the quality of his blade. Modern-day researchers have discovered that what made these swords so special was the extreme heat in which they were forged. The high temperature allowed for more impurities to be removed, resulting in a far stronger and more flexible blade.

In Isaiah 48:10, God told His people, “I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.” In this passage as well as others, such as Malachi 3:3 and Revelation 3:18, we see that God wants to purify and strengthen us. This is something we most likely desire for our lives until we realize that the agent He uses to accomplish this refining is suffering. It’s through hardship and difficulty, however, that God purifies us for His sake as well as our own (Isaiah 48:11).

The idea of suffering certainly may not be appealing at the surface level, but in digging deeper we can find true encouragement. This is because one of the most dangerous thoughts we can entertain during difficult seasons is the idea that our troubles serve no purpose and accomplish no end. We think we suffer for nothing. But in Isaiah, we read that this is not the case! The afflictions we face are not without meaning, for God in His love and power can use them to strengthen and refine our character. He can use them to create within us a resilient and unbreakable faith.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: John 12:37-50