Pride, greed, envy, insecurity, depression, idolatry, prejudice, impatience and the list goes on and on. These are weaknesses that we carry within us--sometimes without even knowing they are there. Well after we secure our salvation by accepting Christ as Lord and Savior, we start on a journey called sanctification. The goal of sanctification is to make us more like Christ. This is done by purifying us of spiritual weaknesses like the ones listed above. In Proverbs 17:3 we are told that the crucible refines silver and the furnace refines gold, but the Lord refines our hearts. And just as heat was used to refine the precious metals, the Lord says we will be refined in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10). This is important to know. This means that not every trial sent our way is from the devil. Sometimes the Lord sets up storms to take us to another level in our faith.
Example 1: I have two brothers and a sister that play basketball. Every since my dad realized they had a talent for the game, he has played them on teams that were older than they were. It's true that at times this has caused them to leave games a little battered physically and emotionally, but each one of them was able to take their abilities to a new level. They honed the skills they had, while also learning new skills like confidence and leadership.
Example 2: While I'm writing to you this morning my husband is at the gym. He lifts weights to gain and maintain muscle tone. Now people who workout a lot will tell you that you don't start building muscle mass until after your muscles get tired. They will usually workout until their muscles are fatigued and then do one more set of repititions. They take this approach because fatigued muscles start to break down, and it's not until the muscles are broken that they can be rebuilt--and built stronger.
Sometimes God has to take a similar approach with us. Sometimes He send us through situations that leave us battered emotionally or physically but we learn more about ourselves and are strengthened through the process. Sometimes He has to break us down to build us up. But we have to make sure we are aware of the lesson being taught. Think about it. If a body builder does a workout and doesn't get results, the next workout is just going to be longer and harder. So I think that it would help us if we go ahead and identify some of the weaknesses in our life. That way when we are going through the furnace we will know what the end goal is and who knows, maybe we can skip some fires all together.