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. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:5–6, ESV).
A trial is a painful circumstance allowed by God to change my conduct and my character. My conduct—that’s what I do. And then on a deeper level, my character—that’s who I am. Trials signal that God is making adjustments in my actions and my spirit. Several biblical terms are actually interchangeable: trials, suffering, hardship, tribulation, chastising, and discipline. Trials are hard times!
These hard times vary both in intensity and duration. Tribulation can take you by storm, fast and furious. Or a hardship can stretch over months, years, or even decades, a slow burn. Trials can be small and irritating or huge and shattering.
Everyone experiences trials. In fact, if you’re one of God’s children, you’re going through a trial of some size and shape right now. It’s the most difficult aspect of your life—perhaps physical, relational, economic, emotional, or circumstantial.
Here’s the unalterable fact: Pain is often a central part of God’s purpose in this world. God allows and sometimes even causes pain in our lives. It’s one of the tools He uses to get stubborn sheep to greener pastures.
God’s love is not a pampering love; it’s a perfecting love. God doesn’t say, “Here, Billy. Have some more cupcakes. Take the one with the extra icing.” That’s not God. Your grandma, maybe—God, no.
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.” Through trials, God is disciplining, training, or instructing us, as parents do with their children. Don’t think lightly of what God is doing. In fact, do some heavy thinking.
When God moves toward you to make some changes in your conduct and character, do not be casual, indifferent, sarcastic, or blasé about His approach. He’s God! He’s a committee of One. He doesn’t check with anybody, and He knows what He’s doing. Don’t take His work in your life lightly. Don’t act flippant when trials come your way. If trials haven’t arrived yet, they’re coming.
And don’t “be weary when reproved by him.” When the goal is character transformation, God doesn’t move toward you with kid gloves. God’s correction may feel intense, even harsh, but don’t get down, because “the Lord disciplines the one he loves.”
Why does the Lord discipline you? Because He loves you. You might be tempted to think, Well, if You loved me, God, You wouldn’t leave me over here with empty pockets and bounced checks.
Far from abandoning us when we’re going through difficult trials, God moves toward us. He’s not folding His arms; He’s rolling up His sleeves. He’s getting ready to do something in your life that you haven’t previously been willing to let Him do. In fact, trials are proof of love.
Never forget this: When God allows you to experience trials, His motivation is love. His eyes are upon you. His attention is toward you. This is biblical love—a love that’s willing to take you through a valley to get you to a hilltop. No pseudo solutions or quick fixes with God. He is going for deep, lasting change in you, so “he disciplines [you] for [your] good” (Hebrews 12:10).
God’s taking you to a better place. God sees the bulls-eye, and He’s aiming for it. Like a skilled dentist, God is only drilling out decay, stuff that has made you restless and miserable all your life. When the work is done, your life will be better, but only if you embrace what God is doing.
This post originally appeared on Dr. James MacDonald’s daily devotional Our Journey and was republished with permission.
James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leads the church-planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship, teaches the practical application of God’s Word on the Walk in the Word radio and television programs, and is a gifted author and speaker. You can find out more about James and his ministries at WalkintheWord.org.