No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12, verse 11.
A few more thoughts about this verse before moving on from it. Life ‘hurts so good’ and we endure pain that can discipline us. Pain can either break us or make us; talk about a cliché yet it’s true. Pain made my parents and it disciplined their path home.
I’m going through a tough time right now. I don’t want to share details at the moment but it’s a time of dread, anxiety, and uncertainty. It seems like God is disciplining me for things I’ve done, almost like it’s punishment. Bad decisions, risky gambles, and poor choices seem to be coming home to roost, and I’ve felt more down in the last few days than I’ve felt in years. I take heart, however, in words like verse 11, knowing that God’s discipline is given to me in order to build discipline. In this season of change, He’s changing things in my life to prepare for something else, something good. When I think of it that way then things don’t seem so bleak. When I think about the pain of these days, I think there’s something better just up ahead.
I think about my dad. I’ve said before that I grew up thinking my dad was less than he was. It was only when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer that I saw just how iron-strong he really was. It wasn’t just Dad’s strength: it was God’s strength in him. Dad endured disfiguring surgeries, painful radiation, and sickening, weakening chemotherapy. He had always been a handsome man, but the cancer treatment robbed him of his looks. Dad loved to sing and listen to music, but the treatment made both unpleasant. And even his hobby, watching movies, seemed to be badly affected because it was tough for him to sit still for long periods of time with his body trying in vain to heal. Or even to see. But I never heard him complain about it, not even once. The week before he died, we were talking and he said “I don’t want this but I’ve got it. I know where I’m going and I know it’ll be ok.” Is that the expression of a man resigned to a death-fate, or is it the faith of a dying man expressing knowledge that God is in control? I will always know it was the latter.
And I think about my mom. By her choice, she spent the last year of her life in assisted living, moving to Texas to live in care and to be near some of her grand-kids. Quite honestly though, I spent much of that year mad at her. It had fallen to me to clean out her house and renovate it for sale: a monumental task. My wife and sister helped a lot, and my son and son in law helped with the move, but most of the physical, financial, and emotional work was mine. In the last week of her life, Mom called me several times per day, asking me to come over to her new place and do things, check on things. In-between her calls and my work, I felt frazzled and exhausted. On the night she fell ill, her heart started racing and wouldn’t slow down. I took her to the hospital and they admitted her. Even though I knew inside that something was happening, I took it for granted that she would recover because she always had. A few hours later, she had a massive heart attack and was put on life support. A few hours after that, she briefly regained consciousness. Confused at first, she quickly understood what was happening and spent her last few waking moments saying goodbyes, giving forgiveness and praise to people who needed it, and even telling a few jokes. She died a few hours later. I will always know she went home to heaven because she had expressed to me over many years her faith in God. In her last moments, she was accepting and ready.
Please excuse all the times I’ve referred to myself in this missive. I wanted you to know how these good people passed from this life to the next. They did it with Godly dignity and realistic courage. Mom died quickly; Dad lingered for months. Both of them knew the pain of debilitation, and the pain of worry over how to meet their human responsibilities. Yet the real love of God was stronger for both of them, and when it mattered most, the pain paled in comparison. I don’t like the things that are happening in my life now, but when equipped with the God-loving faith my parents taught me, I know that the pain is only temporary. That what I believe is stronger, and that the things of this world, in God’s good time, will pass.
For further reading: Isaiah 32:17, James 3:17-18, Romans 5:3-5.
My Lord, abide with me and all who hurt. Love us and forgive us and help us to do the work You set before us. Help us to trust you more.