by Shewanda Riley, PhD

When this year started, I did not make new year’s resolutions but prayed for God to show me what I needed to work on. The word that came to my spirit was purification. I wrote it down and found scriptures that related to having a pure heart and mind. Honestly, I was excited because after being hurt by people and disappointed in myself, I needed to work on having a pure heart. Moreover, I thought that focusing on this word would give me the strength to finally let go of some things I’d been holding onto.

As I started to think and pray more about the word, I realized that I’ve often thought of purification as an unpleasant process that involved sacrifice and giving up things I enjoyed.

However, after studying scripture, I’m starting to realize that purification isn’t about saying what you do and don’t do. For example, just because you don’t drink, smoke, do drugs, and are sexually moral doesn’t necessarily mean you have a pure heart either. What I’m starting to see is that the sometimes fiery process of purification is designed to get us to the point where we choose to reflect God and not the troubles that we have experienced.

I believe that there are two ways that we can discover the blessing of God’s purification.   First, we have to draw closer to God. James 4:8 says “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”   It takes courage to humble ourselves and then take the first step of drawing near to God.   What keeps us from making that first step?    Sometimes it’s fear or even pride that keeps us from doing so.  The scripture reference to being double minded refers to being caught/committed to two opposing viewpoints, unstable and keeping your options open.  Being double-minded also keeps us from drawing closer to God and staying close to God.

Next, we have to accept God’s Grace.     1 John 1:9 encourages ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”     This means we have to acknowledge when we have a breach in our relationship with God.  This breach is not always an action; sometimes sin is an attitude.  Sometimes the attitude isn’t against others; it’s against ourselves.   I’ve had to learn to stop being so hard on myself for making mistakes.   After doing this, it was easier to accept that God’s grace covers any mistake I’ve made in the past and will make in the future.

According to the website Hope for the Heart, purification of gold during biblical times was a process where the refiner looked for his reflection on the surface of the melted gold.     As the impurities were exposed and removed, the image of the refiner became clearer.  The refining process was complete when the image of the refiner on the gold was not warped.  Likewise, when we allow the fiery testing of our character by God to show the areas that we need to work on and be healed from, we then start to reflect more of God’s pure heart and not our own broken hearts.

Shewanda Riley, PhD, is a Fort Worth-based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.”   Email her at or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.