5and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
“MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD,
NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;
6FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES,
AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”
7It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:5-11
Let’s just state the obvious. Suffering isn’t fun. It isn’t pleasant. It isn’t easy or enjoyable. Pain hurts, sickness weakens, harsh words pierce.
What if pain produces joy? What if sickness brings rest? What if harsh words bring greater love?
What if we could get to the point where suffering was something we celebrated because of what it does for our eternal souls and rewards we will receive in heaven? What if the church spent more time preaching the blessings of suffering, the glory of it, and not the avoidance of it?
Now, bear with me…am I saying that the Lord enjoys our suffering? No. God WANTED us to live in a beautiful garden with full intimacy with Him. He wanted to walk in the cool of the day with us, after we had spent a full day playing with lions and picking fresh fruit (not THAT fruit though, thank you very much), and soaking up love and beauty in everything we saw.
However, that isn’t our reality. Our reality is that we are steeped in sin from the moment we were conceived. Yes, not even infants are innocent and unspoiled, because they have the nature of sin within them, they just don’t know how to use it yet.
The Lord, though, does allow hardship as discipline–not because we are His enemies, but because we are His children. We spank or give time out or take away dessert when our kids lie or steal because we know that the momentary loss of dessert lasts a day, but becoming a thief and liar has eternal ramifications–indeed unrepentant thieves and liars are cast into hell. So we swat bottoms or take away toys, which is painful for the child, but is a trainer to keep them from going to actual hell for actual eternity.
Yes, it is painful for the child. To the child with limited perspective, not getting to go on a playdate is like being grounded forever. We parents, though, know it is just a couple of hours lost for a lesson that needs to last a lifetime.
So the Lord too allows hardship as discipline. He knows, with the perspective of an Eternal Being, that this is just a couple of hours in an eternal life. However, in that suffering, He is right there, calling us to Him, helping us find Him, exhorting us to drop the sins we cling to. He does not swat and leave. He allows natural hard things to happen (illness, financial problems, etc) so that we will turn to Him.
Now, what happens when we run to Him? Peace. Love. When we turn from our sin, He gives us forgiveness. When we stumble, He catches us with grace.
So then our weakness leaves the body. And soul. And heart. The more we turn to Him, the more joy and peace and love we feel and have, even in the midst of pain.