Why Would God Make Our Lives Hard?
Her adversaries have become rulers; her enemies relax. Certainly the LORD caused her grief because of her many wrong acts. Her children have gone away, captive before the enemy. (CEB)
As a young Christian, I was uncomfortable with the idea that God disciplines us. I expect this had to do, in part, with my experience of discipline in my family. Though my father never abused me physically, when he got angry, it was very, very scary. So the thought of an angry God disciplining me was a most unhappy one. Thus, I never quite knew what to do with verses like Lamentations 1:5. I didn’t like the idea of a God who caused grief, even if he had good reason to do so.
In time, I became a parent. As a parent, I knew I was supposed to discipline my children. Furthermore, I knew that discipline required discomfort. To use the language of Lamentations, I needed to cause them grief or the discipline would be to no avail. But this conviction didn’t make it easy for me to take away their privileges, or send them to their rooms, or whatever else was appropriate. Honestly, I hated making my children feel pain of any kind. Yet, I did it because I loved them and wanted them to become the best people they could be.
My experience as a parent helps me to understand why God may cause his people to grieve. I can even begin to understand on a visceral level the teaching on divine discipline found in Hebrew 12: “Bear hardship for the sake of discipline. God is treating you like sons and daughters! What child isn’t disciplined by his or her father? But if you don’t experience discipline, which happens to all children, then you are illegitimate and not real sons and daughters. What’s more, we had human parents who disciplined us, and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live? Our human parents disciplined us for a little while, as it seemed best to them, but God does it for our benefit so that we can share his holiness. No discipline is fun while it lasts, but it seems painful at the time. Later, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness for those who have been trained by it” (Heb 12:7-11, CEB).
If we acknowledge that God might discipline us for our own sake, we run the risk of attributing all suffering to God’s discipline. I’ll address this in tomorrow’s reflection. For now, I would leave you with the thought that no matter the source of the pain in your life, God wants to use it to help you know him more deeply and share in his holiness.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What are your experiences of discipline in your family? Are they positive? Negative? Mixed? As you think about your life, are there times when you believe God was disciplining you? How did this discipline happen?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me as an earthly father loves a child, and so much more. Thank you for caring about me, for desiring that I grow in holiness and love.
Now comes the hard part, Lord. I know I’m supposed to say, “Thank you for disciplining me so that I might become more like you.” But, can I say this and mean it? Can I really thank you for the times when you have either allowed or caused pain in my life? Honestly, I don’t know, Lord. And the last thing I want to do is to offer prayers that aren’t authentic. So, this much I can say and mean it, “Thank you for loving me so much that you will do what is necessary for me to be the best person I can be. Thank you for never letting go of me in the process.”
All praise be to you, God of grace beyond measure. Amen.