Few things in life are as daunting (and of course, enjoyable), as parenting. And few things in parenting are as challenging or heart-breaking, as discipline. No parent in their right mind, or with a good heart, enjoys discipline, even when it is necessary!
I’ve never had a child say to me, “Thanks Dad, I really appreciate your correction and training. I needed that rebuke. I think in the long run those consequences are more than appropriate. They will serve me well as I continue to grow and mature.”
That just doesn’t happen. Ever.
If we are honest, we’re not all that different when we are on the receiving end of discipline – God’s discipline.
Writing to a group of Christians enduring hardship, the writer of Hebrews reminds them, and us, that God is a Father, who out of love, disciplines his kids. While God’s love is always good, it is not always gentle.
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children…Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:7, 9-10).
Not all of our suffering or hardship is because of sin. We often suffer or endure trials because of someone’s else’s sin against us. We experience pain because we live in a fallen world. Hardships are sometimes the result of spiritual attacks. And some suffering is just mysterious, like Job’s. We never get an answer.
But some of our trials God is using for our training. God can, and does, use discipline to correct us, shape us, and save us. While not all of our suffering is because of sin, some of it is. Not someone else’s. But our own. Unwise decisions. Bad habits. Immaturity. Just to name a few! In Christ, God is our Father, we are his sons and daughters. And out of love, he disciplines us. He is training and correcting us, so that we might grow up and experience the life he wants to give us. He wants us to “share in his holiness.”
God doesn’t just want us to get through our suffering; God wants us to grow through our suffering. And so we must be careful of not just enduring or trying to quickly escape our suffering. Instead, we need to allow God’s discipline to open our eyes and soften our hearts to parts of who we are that need change. That need God’s grace and truth.
In this way, enduring hardship because of discipline enables us to focus on what really matters. It realigns our priorities. Removes distractions, uproots idols, and purifies sinful desires. God’s discipline leads us back to Christ. Strengthens us. And causes us to rely more and more on him (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
There is a “harvest” if we don’t give up or give in during difficult times when we sense we are being “trained” or disciplined by God. Which is why we are often commanded to be patient in suffering (James 5:7). We need to be careful of missing a future harvest because we are unwilling to endure a current hardship.
If God is disciplining you, be encouraged. He considers you his son or daughter. His discipline is out of love. He is remaking you. Growing you. Inviting you to share in his holiness. Don’t give up or grow discouraged. Repent where necessary. Run to the cross. Rely on the Holy Spirit. And remember that God’s love is always good, even when it is not gentle.
Patrick Schwenk is a husband, father, pastor, and author. Along with his, wife, Patrick is the creator of For the Family and the author of For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse with Kids in the House.