Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:3-11)
Can I be honest? I am often exceedingly slow to recognize difficulty as “the discipline of the Lord.” I can sit for weeks and months with a difficulty or dissatisfaction or frustration—feeling a combination of pity, apathy and anger–before realizing that God is trying to teach and strengthen me through it.
But God says that he “disciplines the one he loves,” as a father disciplines his children. The wonderful thing about this truth is that there is purpose to our struggles, weaknesses and frustrations, as God’s children. They are not random or meaningless. They are not a “getting the short end of the stick” of a cold universe. They are part of the loving “discipline of the Lord,” and meant for our good.
God disciplines us to strengthen and mature us, to draw us to himself, so that we would yield the “peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
Now, it’s one thing to acknowledge this; it’s another to recognize our current difficulties as discipline. So what might the Lord’s discipline look like? Well, it may mean being financially strapped. For months, years or a lifetime. Not being able to do or purchase many things you want, that that you see others with.
It may mean experiencing relational difficulty. Within marriage, extended family, friends or church members. On one level, relational difficulty is often due to the sin of one or both parties. All healthy relationships depend on abundant repentance, forgiveness and longsuffering. On another level, relational tensions present an opportunity for God’s loving discipline to form and shape us. As we press into them, God often makes us more understanding, humble, merciful, patient and hospitable.
But oftentimes, I think God’s discipline comes in the form of a general dissatisfaction, boredom or frustration with life. If you’re like me, this is something that often flies under the radar of “discipline,” and that I am slow to consider God’s hand in.
We put all our energy into getting rid of our dissatisfaction. We have countless techniques for dealing with dissatisfaction in life, many voices telling us how to lead a fulfilling life: find a hobby, keep a regular schedule, cut out toxic people, eat healthier, exercise, binge watch a show, etc.
But what if dissatisfaction has a divine purpose? What if God is trying to get our attention, trying to draw us closer to himself, trying to stop us from running from one pleasure or distraction to the next for life, and instead trust in him?
Recognizing God’s hand and purpose in such discipline doesn’t make it pleasurable or easy. God says plainly, through the author of Hebrews: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant…” It is an odd person who goes looking for financial struggles, relational tensions, dissatisfaction with life or the like.
But it does encourage and strengthen us to make the most of our suffering by entrusting ourselves to God’s good and sovereign hand, and to come out worshipping and enjoying God a little bit more.