6 Benefits of Life’s Irritants

God’s Strange Process to Create Something Beautiful in You

Recently God gave me a stunning word picture while praying with a friend. Through no fault of his own, my friend had been going through a difficult and often bewildering trial.

In my mind’s eye, I saw a beautiful pearl being formed amid the darkness of an oyster shell.

Not knowing much about how pearls are formed, I later did some research at AmericanPearl.com and found this intriguing description of the process:

The birth of a pearl is truly a miraculous event. Unlike gemstones or precious metals that must be mined from the earth, pearls are grown by live oysters far below the surface of the sea. Gemstones must be cut and polished to bring out their beauty. But pearls need no such treatment to reveal their loveliness. They are born from oysters complete—with a shimmering iridescence, lustre and soft inner glow unlike any other gem on earth.

A natural pearl begins its life as a foreign object, such as a parasite or piece of shell that accidentally lodges itself in an oyster’s soft inner body where it cannot be expelled. To ease this irritant, the oyster’s body takes defensive action. The oyster begins to secrete a smooth, hard crystalline substance around the irritant in order to protect itself. This substance is called “nacre.” As long as the irritant remains within its body, the oyster will continue to secrete nacre around it, layer upon layer. Over time, the irritant will be completely encased by the silky crystalline coatings. And the result, ultimately, is the lovely and lustrous gem called a pearl.

How something so wondrous emerges from an oyster’s way of protecting itself is one of nature’s loveliest surprises. For the nacre is not just a soothing substance. It is composed of microscopic crystals of calcium carbonate, aligned perfectly with one another, so that light passing along the axis of one crystal is reflected and refracted by another to produce a rainbow of light and color.

It’s not too hard to see the parallels between creation of a pearl and the difficult circumstances we all face in life from time to time:

  1. The pearl never would have formed without an “irritant”—some unwanted foreign object that intrudes into our peaceful world.
  2. The pearl, though ultimately beautiful and lustrous, is formed in utter darkness, in the “secret place” where no one can see.
  3. The larger the irritant, and the longer it remains, the larger and more lovely the pearl will become. It’s fascinating the Bible describes 12 pearls in the New Jerusalem as being so enormous that each pearl can form an entire city gate! (Revelation 21:21)
  4. The nacre that forms a pearl is actually made up of the same substance that created the outer shell. This is a great illustration of a life of integrity, consistent inside and out.
  5. Creation of a pearl is a slow process, usually requiring at least three to five years. In the same way, our maturation into Christlikeness is an ongoing process that requires time and patience.
  6. The painful, irritating process will be worth it in the end! Just as AmericanPearl.com describes for pearls, the result for us will be “a rainbow of light and color.” As an interesting parallel, the trial experienced by Noah and his family was rewarded at the end by a rainbow, a sign of God’s covenant love and faithfulness (Genesis 9:13-16).

So why did Jesus speak in Matthew 13:45-46 of “one pearl of great price,” so valuable that a man “went and sold all that he had and bought it”?  In a much greater way than my friend’s irritating, unfair trial, Jesus went through history’s ultimate agony when He suffered and died for us on the cross. The result was the gospel, a pearl so valuable that we should be willing to sell everything else in order to obtain it (Philippians 3:7-10).

If you are facing some difficult circumstances today, I encourage you to remember how pearls are made. You may not like the process, nor do I. But I’m pretty sure we’re going to love the outcome when the oyster shell opens and we marvel at what God has produced in us in the darkness.