Just as pearls cannot be formed without pain, truth and wisdom are forged by God in us through our suffering and struggles. It’s His miracle-working power of transformation that changes adversity to blessings.
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. (Psalm 51:6)
I was reminded, as I meditated on this verse, about having once heard that a pearl is an oyster’s response to pain. It reverberated within my spirit, and I realised that we mostly look to the value of the pearl rather than at the story behind it. We often use the expression ‘pearls of wisdom’ but how often do we consider the implications? Truth, also, is referred to as ‘a pearl of great price’ that is worth giving up everything to acquire. Pearls are truly beautiful, a miracle of nature, but it helps us to understand that they are only acquired at great cost. Our humble oyster is a wonderful example that truth and wisdom are built slowly over time, received in us by the work of God and only through times of difficulty. While both are freely available, our human condition means we are slow to fully receive.
Truth and wisdom are inward.
It’s a remarkable thought that pearls do not grow outside the shell. They are formed inside – in the hidden parts – and never happen overnight. Forming pearls is not a process that can be witnessed or measured. In fact, looking at an oyster, there is absolutely no way to tell whether it contains a pearl or not. The only way is to open it up and have a look. In the same way, we have no way of knowing what size a pearl may be or to determine its shape. Truth and wisdom are no different. There is no way of telling from the outside what pearls a believer contains. It’s a secret, hidden process worked by God in the inward parts, a shaping of things of immeasurable value within us. Even we, who are part of the process, will be surprised at what God works in us without our knowledge.
This is in direct opposition to the truth and wisdom of the world which is measurable and visible. Knowledge is acquired and wisdom manifests in personal experience. We can easily identify and quantify these in a natural context. Truth is defined by our preferences, predispositions, and prejudices. Two people can exhibit two entirely contradictory versions of the truth. Wisdom is usually defined by what we want to hear. If we like it or it agrees with us, it’s wise, or visa versa. In the world, it’s all subjective. But with God, these things are absolute. They are the manifestation of His character in us and are defined only by who and what He is. We cannot acquire them externally. In fact, we cannot acquire them at all. The closest we come is to be a willing ‘shell’ for Him to work with and let Him get on with it.
Working truth and wisdom in us.
This is where our little oyster takes centre stage. What does it mean that a pearl is the oyster’s response to pain? In very simple terms, an oyster has a shell lined inwardly with a mantle which contains the flesh. When something slides in between the mantle and the shell, it acts as an irritant. The oyster then responds to cover this over with layers of something called nacre, which is the same substance that goes into making the shell. Over time, these layers become the pearl. The reality is that without the irritant, the oyster would never form a pearl. Something of great value would be created. In the same way, truth and wisdom will seldom be formed in a life that is entirely comfortable and unafflicted. Like the oyster, there would be no point in responding to something that isn’t there. No response means no pearl.
Truth and wisdom operate in much the same way. The truth is freely available in God’s Word. We have access to it at any time, and may even read it regularly, listen to it, and even meditate on it. But the Bible reminds us that there is a difference between hearers of the Word and doers of the Word. Truth is wonderful, and God’s truth even more so. But until it settles actively in us and we act on it, it’s head knowledge. It’s outward truth rather than inward truth. Wisdom comes as a result of us acting in the truth. We can have no wisdom without having the truth, and it will never form if the truth remains inactive and passive within us. While both of these are pearls beyond price, it’s an inalterable fact that we must be willing to give all to have them worked in us.
Truth and wisdom come by pain.
Those who have never experienced the full spectrum of life will always have a limited capacity to give anything of value. They remain simply an oyster – a pretty shell and a good dollop of flesh inside. To understand what seems like a harsh reality, we need only look at the full range of human emotion. We will never fully appreciate joy if we haven’t experienced heartbreak. Hope only has real value if viewed against hopelessness. Courage is meaningless without fear, and mercy is irrelevant without judgement. It is the irritants that creep in to disrupt the perfect life that initiate the making of pearls. Our pain, our heartache, and our suffering produce the pearls of truth and wisdom that are a blessing not only to ourselves but also to others. This is the reason we can rejoice in all circumstances, no matter how bad.
I’m reminded that the Bible tells us that all things work to the good of those who love God. He knows I’ve had my fair share of ‘stuff’ – sometimes I think it’s more than my fair share – I would never have chosen. I often wondered at the apparent futility and injustice of it all. So many things seemed so random and without value, leaving me with a deep-rooted sense of failure and worthlessness. But, looking back, I can see the work God was doing in secret. As He brings others to me who are hurting and hopeless, I discover the pearls He has formed from all my irritants and pain. It’s both inspiring and humbling. Inspiring, because I am able to affirm the absolute truth of His Word in a real and vivid way. Humbling, because I never imagined the magnitude of the miracles He has quietly worked within me.
God desires a vessel for truth and wisdom.
For reasons beyond our comprehension, God has chosen to reveal Himself in and through us. He has chosen the weak, the sinful, the broken, and the failures to manifest His love, mercy, grace, and character to mankind. His entire I AM was revealed in Christ, and He is our perfect example of what it means to be a vessel for truth and wisdom. We cannot over-emphasise the importance of these two precious pearls. It is the truth that sets us free, not as simple knowledge but as an active, living power in our lives. Wisdom is the divine revelation of God that empowers us to live and serve as we are called to do. Without these, we remain a fleshy oyster which offers nothing of value. It is only when we surrender ourselves as a willing vessel that God is able to work what He desires.
The surrender, of course, is the difficult part. We aren’t a passive shell but must willingly immerse ourselves in the process. It means, in a sense, that we must welcome the suffering – which, of course, goes entirely against everything the world teaches and which self demands. But to welcome the pain does not mean to desire it. It means to recognise the opportunity for God to work for our good and for the good of others. It means allowing Him to take the irritant and forge it into something beyond price. The reality is that bad stuff will happen here in this world. Our real victory lies in the truth that God is able to take our suffering and miraculously transform it into a supernatural power for good. That’s the victory of the cross. It’s the eternal example of Jesus who accepted the suffering because He saw the eternal pearl.
Truth and wisdom are Christ in us.
This is the remarkable reality of God’s miraculous, supernatural work. Jesus Himself is the manifestation of the truth and wisdom of God. When we surrender and allow God to work, He produces Christ. As truth and wisdom grow in us, the nature of Jesus grows in us. People will see beyond the ordinary natural flesh to the precious pearl beyond price. It’s a fact that some oysters will never produce a pearl. But it’s as true that some have produced pearls with a value that defies measure. We can labour our entire lives and produce nothing of value. Our ability or capability has nothing to do with it. Neither of these, or anything else for that matter, will alter what we encounter in life. But we have the confidence of absolute faith that He will take all and work something of kingdom value from every pain.
Your grace, Lord, is all we need. Help us to remember this in our trials, and remind us that every irritant and pain is part of the process of working truth and wisdom in us. Help us to surrender and to learn to praise You in all circumstances, to remember that You use all to work Christ in us. Thank You for the privilege of being vessels for Your precious pearls of truth and wisdom so that You can be revealed to the world.