Dough, Dirt, and Coal

 “You mean, God allowed this to happen to me? Why didn’t He stop it? Or why didn’t He at least make it a little less painful?”  Ever been guilty of asking those questions?  I confess: I’m guilty! 

Sometimes bad things come into our lives because of our own poor choices.  God forgives our sin when we confess it but He still allows the  consequences to come.  What an effective teacher consequences can be!  Sometimes, however, God may actually bring a trial or hardship upon us or allow someone else’s poor choices to affect us. Why?  Not being God, I couldn’t say; but knowing God, I can say with confidence that He has a definite purpose in doing so and that it’s for our good.

What could His purpose be? How could it be for our good?  To understand, let’s look at 3 illustrations.



  • Bread
  • First, dough.  Dough rises as it fills with air bubbles.  If baked at this point, the loaf would be uneven, deformed, filled with holes, and covered with wart-like bubbles. It might smell good and taste okay but, being an unsightly mess, few would be compelled to eat it.  So to get the air bubbles out, the baker has to punch the dough down, knead it and fold it over and over — actually treating the dough quite brutally — until it’s smooth, elastic, and rises evenly.  The dough is better but it’s still fairly useless.

The baker, however, knows just what to do:  He places the dough in an oven and turns up the heat!  He knows just the right temperature and just the right amount of time to leave the dough in that hot environment.  The result? A delicious, aromatic, life-sustaining loaf of bread.  And who can resist a slice of that?



fertile garden

Second, dirt.  Dry, barren land becomes as hard as rock and good for nothing but walking on.  It draws no animals, hosts no plants, and decreases in value.  The farmer, however, knows just what to do: He comes at it with a hose and a tiller!  He applies water to soften the ground and then tills it, first breaking it into large chunks and then into smaller and smaller pieces.  At this point, the hard, dry ground has only changed into soft, wet dirt.  It’s still not ready to receive seed. 

So the farmer pours on a lot of stinking stuff!  Too little fertilizer leaves the soil undernourished; too much, however, will “burn” the soil.  Not to worry: the farmer knows the exact amount needed.  The result?  Lush, fertile soil that’s ready for seed!  Such soil has the ability to produce abundant crops and, thus, to nourish thousands!





Finally, coal. Coal is a black, messy ore.  Everywhere the coal touches it leaves behind a dirty smudge. But under pressure — intense pressure — the chunk of coal becomes a diamond in the rough!  And a rough diamond is more desireable than a lump of coal, right?  Yet even then, the coal has not reached its full potential.

The jeweler, however, knows just what to do: He comes at it with a cleaver! After cleaving the large stone into smaller pieces, He places 2 rough diamonds on a lathe in such a way that they spin in opposite directions, grinding against each other to make them rounded.  The jeweler then cuts the facets — 58 to be exact — and, finally, gives the diamond a bath in acid to remove any residue that might dull its appearance.  The result? A beautiful, sparkling, precious jewel!  And who doesn’t want one of those?


The kneading and the hot oven, the tilling and the fertilizer, the pressure, cleaving, grinding, faceting, and acid — they’re all trials and hardships the dough, dirt, and coal must endure in order to become delicious bread, fertile soil, and valuable diamonds. 

Which picture above illustrates your spiritual condition?  Are you a lumpy, sticky mess of dough?  Then yield yourself to the Baker and let Him knead you until all your impurities are released. Let Him “bake” you until you are like the Bread of Life, nourishing others and leaving everywhere the aroma of Christ.  Are you spiritually dry, barren, and hard? Let the Gardener apply the water of His Word to soften you, the tiller of His will to break you, and the fertilizer — yes, even the stinky stuff — of life to enrich you so that you can bear much fruit.  Or, are you a lump of smutty coal?  Don’t let the pressures of life or the grinding from other “rough diamonds” break you; rather let them turn you into a well-rounded gem.  Then let the Jeweler cleave, facet, and polish you until He can shine through you and cast His Light upon the paths of others. 

Why does God allow junk into your life?  Maybe, just maybe, He desires to turn you into…

… a loaf of bread that nourishes others with hope and perseverance, or

… a field of fertile soil that grows abundant, fruit-bearing crops, or

… a precious diamond that sparkles with the glory of God!

He has a purpose and it’s for your good.  So TRUST HIM!