"Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness." Malachi 3:3
Everyone has an altar. It can be visible or invisible, holy or profane, elaborate or ordinary, but it's always there. It can be based on ideologies, dreams, or simple pleasures, but we can always find a foundation. We have to; everyone's life needs to revolve around something.
Because everyone has an altar, everyone brings offerings. Some people offer their bodies to people and pleasure. Others offer their minds to areas of study. Still others offer their emotions to a trend of the day or a relationship of the month. We can offer finances to gods of materialism and exploitation, time to gods of entertainment and apathy, and talents to gods of fame and fortune. We have no shortage of gifts to bring to our altars, because the world has no shortage of altars. All human beings are drawn to a cause, even if the cause is themselves.
Part of the Refiner's purpose is to get to the bottom of those causes and burn all of them away except one. That's why people often come to Christ when they're in the midst of a crisis or when they've lost everything they once thought mattered to them. In a world of false altars, the only way God can establish true praise in His people is to break down His rivals. His Word calls that 'refining'. We call it pain.
Yes, it's painful to live in this crucible. But before you despair, try this exercise: Offer your pain on the true altar. Bring all of your trials, your temptations, and your disappointments to God; place them on the altar and worship. Ask God to use every hard thing in your life to display something of His glory - in your sin, mercy; in your impossibilities, miracles; in your sickness, healing; in your turmoil, peace. Realize that every situation in your life is a platform for God to show something of Himself. In the end, the beauty of the metal will demonstrate the beauty of the Refiner.
"All along the Christian course, there must be set up altars to God on which you sacrifice yourself" - Alexander Maclaren