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.
No pain no gain, right? That does seem to be what the verse is saying, doesn’t it? But here’s the kicker: you don’t have to be in pain. You know this is true. All the pain ever needed was felt on the cross by our Savior.
Why is it that our country, America, seems to have so little righteousness, peace, or even discipline in it right now? I was one of the fools caught up in debating the NFL national anthem brouhaha this weekend. None of what I read, or even what I said, seemed very peaceful. North Korea seems bent on starting a war and we seem more than willing to oblige their intention. The stock market is in joyful turmoil, seemingly poised to either rise even higher or crash very soon. Hurricanes, over-zealous media, hyper-sensitivity over small things, differences in beliefs and politics and ideologies, gender confusion, violent ‘protesters’ in the streets: it seems like we have lost our way. Or have we?
Isaiah said that “the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.” Those were his inspired words over 2800 years ago. In his day, Israel was indeed being disciplined. Isaiah prophesied the coming messiah who would bring about peace forever. Yet that peace would come only after great testing.
Let’s be honest: there are nations in history who have been tested far worse than we of 21st century America are being tested now. There are times in our history when we have been divided so much that war broke out. There have been divisive figures all throughout history and history still clocks on today; it will continue to do so until Jesus returns as He said He would. Until then, we are being disciplined.
Sometimes it hurts. Death, divorce, unemployment, losing your home, sickness, pain: they all hurt. It hurts when God allows them into our lives. Yet Romans reminds us that “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Those beautiful verses, my wife’s favorite, don’t tell us “suck it up buttercup.” Instead, they remind us that God is with us, at work in us even in the hardest times, and even when we don’t like it. Good comes from bad. Suffering teaches us about the character God built into us. And God refines us as we persevere, instilling into us hope as a guarantee of peace to come. Think of yourself as 10 carat gold being refined by melting into 24 carat. The impurities are being stripped away, and that hurts. But it’s for good. Think of it as medical treatment for a dread condition. Before the healing can start, the cancer needs to go away.
Right now life is hard. It’s hard to talk with people. It’s hard at home. It’s hard in public and sometimes even in private. I don’t like the feeling of being disciplined, of having God tear me down to build me up in other ways. Yet I do know He’s doing it, and that what He does is always good, for good, to produce good. Gain from pain? Yes, even when, as Johnny Cougar sang, “it hurts so good.” But we don’t need the pain because Jesus already felt it.
For further reading: Isaiah 32:17, James 3:17-18, Romans 5:3-5.
My Lord, the refining You’re putting me through hurts. Strengthen me to persevere by clinging to You. Abide with me that I may come closer to You in all ways here.