Letting God Refine the Gold in You | The Graceful Life
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Letting God Refine the Gold in You

Today I’m going to share my heart from a place of vulnerability about my health, in a way that I never have before. So I want you to know ahead of time so you can extend some grace to me, like the girls of grace that I know that you are. I hope you will hear my heart regarding what God is doing in my life and in my health and I pray that it can benefit you as well. So let’s go ahead and get started!

This is a longer post, so if you would you rather listen to it  instead of read it, just click here to listen to the podcast!

I used to go to bed and I would pray at night that I would wake up thin.

God parted the red sea, and He turned water into wine. Couldn’t He turn fat into muscle? Wouldn’t it just be easier if I didn’t have to deal with cravings and extra pounds and health issues and all these things.

It wasn’t until I read 1 Peter 1:7 that I completely changed my perspective on this idea of losing weight and decided to learn what it meant to lose weight God’s way.

1st Peter 1:7 says, “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It being tested as fire tests and purifies gold. Though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Christ Jesus is revealed to the whole world.”


The Beginning of My Story

I could start at the beginning… I could give you a sob story about some struggles that I’ve had about my weight. I could tell you about a traumatic experience I had as a child that led to the start of my first diet at the age of nine.

And how that diet turned into a two decade struggle with emotional eating.

I could tell you about how I’ve been diagnosed with two auto-immune diseases, one of which literally has uncontrollable weight gain in its list of symptoms.

I could go into detail about how this affected me and how my past has created this person, but when I take an honest look at it, my weight is 100% my doing.

And it’s 100% my responsibility.

It may be more difficult for me than other people, but it’s a testing I need to go through. And it’s a testing that I truly believe will refine me from the inside out.

So while it would be easier if I was just thin and didn’t have to struggle with my weight, I don’t want to miss out on the testing and the teaching that God wants to do through me as I lose the weight that I want to lose.


Not Alone

Now, just because I’m the one doing all the physical work doesn’t mean that God won’t walk alongside me.

God can and wants to use your health journey to make your faith more genuine.

For me, its about the process as much as it is about the outcome.

Now I’m not going to say that its all about the journey and not about the destination at all. But it is more about the journey for me. I want to get to that destination, don’t get me wrong, but its about the process that God takes me through.


How Gold is Refined

Let’s think about this idea of the refiner’s fire and how gold is being changed.

If gold doesn’t go through a process, then its not worth as much as it could be.

My husband likes to watch a show on the Discovery Channel called Gold Rush.

On the show, teams are mining gold and they filter it into little pans. They pour it all out into these weight machines, and as the ounces are going up, the TV show talks about how valuable it is and how many dollars it is worth.

But if you were just to take that pan into a jewelry store, you’re not going to get any excitement out of people, because it’s not worth as much to them.

I wouldn’t say that it’s not worth anything, but it’s not worth as much to them yet, because it hasn’t gone through a process.


Letting God Refine the Gold in You

Sometimes we forget that the process is what matures us as Christians.

The process is what changes us into the person that God wants us to be. And He doesn’t expect us to do it all on our own.

Sure, we have to do the physical work. But He’s alongside us the entire time, allowing us to mature through these struggles. And yes we’re talking about health and having a healthy mindset, but I want you to know that this process doesn’t just apply to health. It can apply to any struggle that you’re going through right now.

Maybe you’re trying to purchase a home and it doesn’t feel like anything is working and no contracts are going through. That doesn’t mean that God can’t change the circumstance. Maybe it just means that God wants to change something in you through the circumstance.

Mark Batterson said, “Sometimes we pray so much for God to change a circumstance that we don’t realize the reason He’s not changing the circumstance is because He wants to change us.” So, in other words, it’s not just about the destination, but it’s about the journey.

And for me, this is less about fitting into my 12 year old wedding dress and it’s more about letting Jesus truly and honestly be the Lord over my body and what I eat and how I exercise and not just Him being the Lord of my heart.

Because if God is not the Lord over your entire life, if He’s not the Lord of 100%, then He’s not the Lord of any percent.

Before this experience, I would trust Him when I make decisions in my business or my heart or my family, but I had kept my body from Him, from letting Him truly being the Lord over it.

I would say, “You know what, if I want to have this certain food, I’m going to eat it.” Or “if I don’t want to get up early, I’m not going to do it.”

I want this process to change me so I can say, “Lord, you truly are the Lord over my body. You’re not just my Savior, you’re my Lord and I want to trust You in this. And I trust You enough to walk through this process.”

My physical softness, my fluffiness, had become a reflection of my spiritual softness.

My lazy attitude or lazy habits or the way that I had been lazy about what I was eating started to show up spiritually.

James 1:3 says, “For you know that when your faith is being tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”

And then he goes on to say in the next verse, (verse 4) “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.”

And that’s what I want for myself. And that’s what I want for you.

I want us to be mature in our walk with Christ. I want us to be growing every single day so that whenever we look back a year from now, we can say, “I have grown in Christ and I can see how God has changed me and molded me into someone who is ever closer to letting that endurance have a chance to grow in my life. Ever closer to knowing Him, ever closer to being that woman that He wants me to be.”


Perseverance Births Hope

Paul says it in a little bit different way in Romans 5, it says, “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

So if you’re at a place right now whenever you feel hopeless, know that hope starts with suffering. Suffering creates perseverance, perseverance creates character and character births hope.

You know, whenever gold or silver is being refined, there’s a process. And I love the way that Gary Thomas says this in his book Every Body Matters, “You don’t create silver. You separate silver through the refining process.”

Silver isn’t made. Silver is separated from all the junk in this process called refining.

Anything that’s not gold or silver is called dross. Dross is all the impurities, all the waste or the chemical matter that surrounds a precious metal. The dross is weighing down the gold. It’s muting the brightness of the gold and it’s taking away from the worth of the gold.


What Dross is Weighing You Down

Just like that gold is being weighed down, our bodies and our hearts are weighed down by dross. Things like emotional eating, excess weight, those traumatic experiences, the sufferings that are in our life.

All those things, all those attitudes and struggles that we choose to hang on to, those struggles of the flesh and the things that we don’t want to let go of.

Those things are weighing us down.

They’re muting our brightness.

And they’re taking away from our true worth.

When I decided that it was time to take the next step in my health journey, I tried to think of things that had been weighing me down spiritually and physically.

Spiritually, I had become really bitter. I’ll expound on this a little bit more in the next few weeks, but my heart had definitely gotten hard. That bitterness and hardness caused be to become really angry.

Small things would set me off. I’ll be honest, some of this was due to crazy prescriptions that I was given, but the prescription wasn’t the ultimate cause. Because it was just bringing feelings to the surface that I had been hiding away.

When I saw that in myself, when I saw that bitterness, when I saw that anger, I knew that it was time to do something physically. So why was that my first though? Because my physical condition had affected my spiritual condition.

Now, what were some of the things weighing me down physically? The obvious answer is the extra pounds. But there was some other things too. I had way less energy than I used to have, I was tired all the time.

I remember before I made the decision to really get serious about getting healthy. There was a day that I went to bed at 7:30 on a Monday night and I didn’t get out of bed until 8:30 the next morning. I was so tired, I had lost so much energy.

I was also dealing with some leaky gut and some inflammation issues. And that caused me to spend days lying in bed with stomach issues, with headaches, all kinds of stuff.

So I was struggling with things like, cystic acne and missed periods and more. And I was really struggling to handle the day to day stress in my life.

I had so much dross, so much weighing me down, that I knew that I wasn’t shining as brightly as I could for Jesus.

Building Your Health on a Solid Foundation

I had always dreamed of being that mom who could throw her kids up in the air and play for hours and hours on end at the park. And I could barely get up in time to take my kids to school.

I’m so thankful for my husband, because he took it in stride. He gave me so much grace, he loved me through it. I think that’s a country song somewhere. (LOL) He really was patient with me. And he was just by my side the whole time, he was so great. So, Devin, if you’re reading to this, thank you.

I want to praise the Lord too, because I had defeated emotional eating a few years back.

It was a freedom that I had never experienced, in terms of eating and food.

But it came to the point where that freedom wasn’t enough. There’s a quote that says, “God didn’t bring you to this point for you to stay at this point.” So, God took me from a pit that I was in. And He brought me out into the freedom, the freedom from emotional eating. But, He didn’t want to just leave me there. He wanted to bring me into the next stage.


The Next Step of My Journey…And Yours

And so, I decided after some prayer, that it was time through God’s strength, to refine the gold within me. And I want you to join me as I do.

You might be wondering, “Ashley, what are you going to do? What’s your game plan? What are you going to do to be healthy after being free from emotional eating?” I will guarantee you it has to be a different process than you would normally think.

My process involves me getting 5 things:

First, I’m going to get TAG.

I first heard this term from Donna Partow in her book, Becoming the Woman God Wants Me to Be.

She calls her time with God TAG. Time Alone with God. I knew I needed that to be the first thing that I did every morning if I was going to make a difference in my health.

See, for some people, that might seem out of place. And it might seem like, “Well, that has nothing to do with your health” and “Isn’t that something that you’ve already been doing?” And yes, it was.

I spend time with the Lord every morning, but I needed to go to Him knowing and being made aware that He was by my side through this process. See, God always is by my side. And He is always with you. But whenever we spend more time with Him, He makes us more aware of His presence.

I had to be made aware of how my food choices and how my exercise choices were a part of Him being my Lord.

AshleyVarner.com | Faith, Family, Health, Ministry

So I had to say, “God, You are in control. You are part of this process. I’m following You and You alone.” I grabbed a simple devotional book, I grabbed my prayer journal and I started being intentional about spending my time with Him, in regards to my health.

Every morning I was spending time with Him. And I was in prayer. And I was seeking Him. But it came to the point when I started saying, “God. I want You to mean more to me than food. I want You to mean more to me than an extra half an hour of sleep each morning.” And I started connecting the dots between the physical things that I was doing for my health and how they related to my relationship with the Lord.


Second, I’m going to get moving.

Exercise is definitely a discipline that I had in the past, but I had let go of it.

I decided to commit to exercise seven days a week for 20 minutes a day. That might seem crazy and everybody’s action plan has to be different, but for me, I knew that it had to be something I did every single day.

Because, just like I pray and read my Bible and spend time with the Lord every single day, I knew that I needed to have something that was a daily reminder that I was sowing seeds of health into my life for a spiritual reason.

I’m going to have some active recovery days, but I knew that if I didn’t treat this exercise as a daily routine, that I would definitely be less likely to stick with it.

I chose 20 minutes because it seemed like a number that I could commit to that seemed doable whenever I considered it in the morning.

I definitely plan to follow up with this and see if I need to up the amount of time that I spend, but for right now,  I just want to be faithful to the process. That’s why the last couple of weeks, I’ve been harping on this idea of being faithful and being faithful in the little things. It’s because I wanted to be faithful with this.

One of the days will be a leisurely walk or just stretching or jumping on the trampoline with my boys, something fun. Bike riding with the family or something like that. But the rest of the days are going to be alternating jogging/walking with resistance training.



Third, I’m going to get  fresh.

I did not want to give myself a bunch of food rules. With my emotional eating and binging history, I knew that rules would just … if I’m honest… rules would just ignite rebellion in my heart.

But I knew I needed some boundaries, so I had to find a fine line between giving myself a bunch of rules, but also giving me boundaries that are going to protect me and protect my health.

So I’m choosing to eat foods that are as close to the way God made them as possible. So, things like fruits, vegetables, meats, seeds.  Nuts, clean water. I decided to focus on what I could have versus what I couldn’t have.

Now, whenever I do that, what I’m saying is, “Lord. I’m trusting the way that You made food.”



Look at a piece of apple pie versus an apple, we know that the apple is closer to the way that God made it, than the apple pie. So whenever I make those choices, I’m saying, “Lord. I’m planting a seed in my health. I am planting this seed, I’m planting this small thing every single day so that I can reap the benefits of it later. I can reap what I sowed.”


Fourth, I’m going to get Intentional

I was determined to pay attention to foods that really messed with my system.

I already knew that gluten was dangerous for me, because of my celiac disease. But I also started to notice that on days that I ate a lot of dairy products, I was exhausted. It was like my body couldn’t handle digesting it. I just felt sluggish.

I also saw a correlation between dairy and my PCOS acne outbreaks. With PCOS, I get a lot of acne underneath my jaw. And I noticed that whenever I have dairy, that really exaggerated those symptoms.

For several weeks, I was just taking mental notes. It was kind of like an experiment. I was saying, “Everything is permissible for me. But not everything is beneficial.” So yes, I set it up so that I didn’t have these food rules and anything was really permissible for me. But, what was really helping me? What was really making me feel the best?

And that might be different for you. So as you are going through this action plan yourself and you pay attention to it and you may find that dairy doesn’t really bother you, but maybe corn bothers you. Or maybe eggs bother you.

Whatever it is, be paying attention to that and get intentional about that.

Sugar definitely gave me instant headaches, and I had decided, at the beginning of this past school year, I had decided to fast soda for nine months. I decided to fast it whenever my boys started school last fall.

Now, we’re coming up to the end of May, school is almost over, and I haven’t had soda this entire time, and I don’t plan to pick it back up.  Because I was sticking to whole foods, foods closer to the way that God made them, sugar was definitely reduced already.

I didn’t go into this journey with the attitude that I could never have dairy or never have sugar or anything like that.

I just limited those foods based on how they made me feel. And not based on what a diet rule book said that I could have.

As I started this process, and as I started really praying and seeking the Lord about how He wanted to refine the gold in me, I didn’t look at diet books.  I really wanted to base my action plan on me. On foods that helped me and foods that hurt me.

Once I made decisions based on that, it was like I took emotion out of it and paid attention logically to what the foods were doing to my body. And that made a difference.

Now, if I had done this and tried to limit certain foods before dealing with emotional eating, it would have thrown me for a loop.

I would have tried to find rules to follow, lists of food to avoid. I would have looked for diet cookbooks and that would have resulted in me breaking the rules in the end.

I know this, because I know myself.

But I dealt with my emotional eating beforehand, and to be honest, I gave myself a wide space of time between being free from emotional eating and deciding to take the next step in my health journey because I had to wait for the Lord first.

I had to be so strong in that freedom and walking so strongly in that freedom, that it wouldn’t throw me for a loop whenever I started to take these steps to get healthy.

So, I just started being intentional about what I was eating. I was intentional about the foods I was bringing into my home. I started being intentional about planning meals, planning lunches, planning snacks. Not just for myself, but for my family too. And that’s a big part of this action plan for me.


Fifth, and lastly, I decided to get grace.

I decided to give myself some grace. You know, I didn’t put all this excess weight on in a month. And it’s not going to come off in a month. This is going to take time.

And there are going to be times when I struggle.

Just like I teach the ladies that are in my 12 week program: Faith Food Freedom, I let go of the scale. That’s not something I’m going to take back. Because I’m choosing grace for myself.

See, it was already there. That grace was already there. But I wasn’t receiving it. I wasn’t accepting it. I wasn’t living in it.

Well, I was living in God’s grace… except in regards to my health. I was so intent on being free and not having all these food rules.

But then I realized that giving myself grace meant 1) letting go of some kind of a timeline of how long it would take to lose this weight, and 2) having grace to see that I’m the way that God made me and that He is going to walk alongside me to get me to the place where He’s refining me from the inside out.


Enjoy the process!

I’m really choosing to believe that this process is God refining me. And I would love for you to take this journey with me. I’m sorry this post was a little bit longer, but I truly wanted to share my heart in one place. And tell you that I’m human, just like you.

And I have struggles just like you.

We all are going to be put through this process of God refining the gold in us. And I would love it if you would take this journey with me. I don’t care what action plan you use, I don’t care if you are still at the place where you’re struggling with emotional eating and you want to get started there first. I don’t care if you’re someone who runs marathons every weekend for fun. Just get your own personal action plan.

And I’m going to be sharing a lot of my triumphs and a lot of my struggles in the Girl of Grace Facebook group, so I hope that you will join me there, as we continue on this discussion about how God changes us and how He refines us from the inside out.

And I hope that you’re as excited about it as I am about this. I hope that you’ll stay tuned to hear all of the great details and the ups and downs of this process. And I want you to know that I’m rooting for you. I am hoping that you allow God to be that Refiner for you.

You know, it might hurt sometimes, but we’re going to come out of it shining brighter than we ever have for the Lord. We’re going to come out of it knowing our worth more than we ever have.

And I want that for you.