At the church I attend, they have been teaching about the upside-down kingdom. In other words, the things Jesus values, the things Jesus believes are important, seem to be directly opposite what the world generally believes to be important. One of the most obvious areas this is true in, is the area that some people call "sifting."
"Sifting" is an all-inclusive term for any sort of trouble we experience, that God allows us to experience, that God intends to purify us. There is a passage of scripture that says we should REJOICE when we experience trouble. Can you imagine? "Yahoo! I've lost my job!"
First, is there anything that could be more upside-down than the the world expects than that? Second, does God really expect us to rejoice in trouble? I don't think so.
There is a "picture" that I think of (and may have already posted about) when I consider this area. If a person is a long distance runner, either for just exercise or for competition, while the person runs the oxygen and the fuel that powers the person''s heart, legs and lungs becomes depleted. It is consumed in the process of running. And it finally reaches a point where the "gas tank" is empty. That point is called "oxygen debt."
It is at the point of oxygen debt that pain and discomfort really make themselves known. It is the point where the brain really begin to scream to stop, to get relief. It is also at that point that the body begins to carve new capillaries into the body, into the heart and other muscles.
Capillaries are the channels that pass oxygen and energy into the body. New capillaries mean the body can get the needed fuels into deeper parts of your muscles, to places where it is most needed. At the point of the body's greatest pain is when it is creating the means of fueling your body more efficiently and effectively.
If a runner can push into the pain, he will gain in speed, stamina, as well as a heart that is not controlled by fear. Sifting is our spirit's oxygen debt. Troubles are our spirit's oxygen debt. We are not urged to rejoice, because we are having trouble. We are urged to rejoice, because we recognize that at the point of our greatest pain, if we push into the pain, God is creating channels in our hearts and in our spirits for greater grace, greater love and greater faith.