Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10). God does not test us with sickness, poverty, calamity, etc., but He will lead us into places that give us an opportunity to exercise our spiritual muscles! Even Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Yes, the Spirit led Him into a place of difficulty. Sometimes God will lead us into an impossible circumstance and we wonder why. Kenneth Hagin used to tell us students that hard places are God’s method of taking us into deeper places in Him. My former pastor Bob Yandian tells of working as a young person at a place that made steel pipes for the oil industry. He said all of the pipes looked perfect as they lay in a row together after the manufacturing process. Hoses were attached to the ends of each pipe and the pipes were then filled with high pressure steam. When the PSI (pounds per square inch) reach several thousand pounds, some of the seemingly perfect pipes developed pin hole size leaks. The pipes would have failed in service after installation had the leaks not been detected! We think all is well and we’re ready for the pressures of ministry and of life until we go through a situation that produces this high pressure steam! I’ve learned to welcome the hard place. The pressure reveals pin hole size character issues previously undetected. Better now than later when in the middle of a call to service where the flaw may affect me and others in a much more negative way. The toughest place may be the place where God ministers to you most! The pressure demands action! The circumstance produces soul searching! As I look back on my own life, the hard places have yielded the fruit of holes being plugged in my pipes! I’m not sure that some things would have been dealt with within me without pressure. Some of the things that have dealt with in me during times of pressure include pride, self-pity, perfectionism, anger, impatience, etc! Use the hard place to your advantage. A scripture that I’ve learned to appreciate over the years is the J.B. Phillips Translation of James 1:2-5.When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders but welcome them as friends. Realize that they come to test your faith and produce in you quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed and you will find that you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.