Probably you have been there.
You have an unruly child and you need to use some discipline. You are mad that the situation has come to this and you might even say to your child something like “This hurts me worse than it does you.” Since this is your child, you may be irritated at his or her behavior, but you know that you love them. You know your anger and disappointment will pass; yet discipline is necessary so the child can learn what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable.
As adult Christians, we don’t want to see ourselves as the child in this scenario but we are very much in it, when it comes to God disciplining us. He is our Father; we are His children and yes, from time to time, we get “out of line.”
Discipline, chastisement and rebuke are the loving responses of our Creator. W. Bingham Hunter* illustrates how we can come to understand this; how discipline can actually benefit us. “If two people float downriver and one person’s craft is holed by a submerged rock, is the wet, bruised and bedraggled soul who crawls ashore having lost all the gear better or worse off than the other person, who is dashed to pulp on the rocks below the hidden waterfall?”
As adults we don’t want to experience discipline in any form. We are the ones who feel we should be disciplining others, but the fact of the matter is that we all make mistakes.
Some of those mistakes are very serious sins.
Most of us focus on the negative effects of punishment. Most of us have a very short-term view. Sometimes a short-term correction is far preferred to eternal punishment. God wants us to grow closer to Him throughout our lives. He wants us to become spiritually mature. He wants to help us develop our character. He does not want us to perish in the “pit.” He wants us to come to know His spiritual truth.
Probably the best way to understand discipline from God is to think of it in the context of the family. A parent’s job is to train and develop values and characteristics which are in the child’s best interest. Like a loving parent, God is not mad at us when He disciplines us. His punishment never comes to us in rage but always in love and compassion. The problem is that we focus on the pain and discomfort and the shame of being disciplined. As adults we just don’t like it.
God’s discipline becomes worse when we begin to associate the pain of the moment with God not loving us. We get angry at God and turn away from Him. We can even get so angry that we stop praying. We need to be aware that God is closest to us when we hurt. Revelation 3:20 says “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will go in and eat with him, and he with Me.” He is not inside, saying to us “Go away until you can be good and then I will let you in.”
Our God who loves and values you does not go away if you quit talking to Him, but you will miss a great deal if you decide to go into spiritual seclusion. Yes, even if you feel that the rebuke from God is very painful, He wants to talk with you. Don’t shut the door to communication with God. Do the reverse; open the door and have more communication and fellowship with Him. In your times of correction, you can have your best talks with God. Express yourself and try to understand God’s purposes in your struggle.
The more you try to understand, the more you will grow.
Indeed, growing closer to God, becoming more spiritually mature and experiencing character development are all good things.
Remember, God our Father loves you enough to correct you.
And that [I am thinking] is a very good thing…
*author of The God Who Hears