“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
Hebrews 12:5-10 ESV
I am left to conclude that the greatest mark and evidence of God’s love towards me is his effort to produce holiness in me through discipline. And the primary way that God disciplines me is through bringing affliction and suffering into my life.
My soul is repulsed by affliction and suffering – it cries against it because it was not created for it. Suffering is not what the human soul was made for, but bliss, happiness, pleasure and rest. To experience suffering and to buck against it is the most natural response. It should not then be thought strange or even condemned when a person seeks with all his might to relieve himself of the suffering and affliction he undergoes.
Because my soul was created for pleasure, happiness and bliss, when it experiences the opposite of these, it will be natural for it to seek pleasure, happiness and rest in any form it can find it in. The sorrow of this condition is that because my soul is ruined and marred by sin, it will seek relief in the most base, simple and foreign locations. Anything and everything will be sought to provide relief, even if those things that are sought to provide relief will end up doing more harm in the long run, so long as they temporarily assuage the biting pain of suffering.
God reveals to us that these sufferings and afflictions are precisely because we seek relief in anything and everything. God brings and places these circumstances upon us because what is good for us is not the mere experience of pleasure, happiness and rest, but only when these things are pursued and obtained in holiness.
Without holiness, all joy and pleasure experienced is proved transient and temporary. Holiness is that precise quality where we are made fit to truly enjoy what is lasting and intrinsically beautiful. When God seeks to make us holy through discipline, he is seeking to wean us off of satisfying ourselves with menial pleasures and to make us fit to enjoy the One True object of satisfaction.
The world experiences only transient pleasure. It knows nothing of the enduring pleasure of holiness. It is acutely unholy. Believers, on the other hand, are gradually (some quicker, some slower – why this is so I will explain) being fitted and shaped into such beings as can be satisfied on what is lasting and enduring.
There is no greater sign then to the believer of God’s love in his or her life than the presence of suffering. It cannot be concluded that the absence of suffering is witness of God’s neglect or even rejection. This is the gradual nature and differing degrees that God places upon differing men. Some receive in themselves tremendous suffering, some little, and some, it seems, none to speak of. There is a reason for this, I believe.
God has dispensed suffering in such a manner that the strong may help the weak, that all may be either dispensers of God’s grace and love to the suffering, or recipients of God’s grace and love in suffering. It is a great blessing to receive the love and grace and ministry while under suffering, but Christ has said that it is “more blessed to give than to receive.”
The one who ministers to those under suffering and affliction shares in a part of Christ that is far more blessed and fulfilling than that of the recipient. To “feed the hungry” and “heal the sick” is to mirror God in a way that none of his creation can share in. God’s love, mercy and grace is magnified at the precise point when he ministers to the undeserving – this is the ultimate demonstration of love. When those who suffer ‘less’ minister to those who suffer ‘more, they demonstrate the highest and most beautiful part of God’s love that can be expressed.
So God’s discipline of his children through affliction and suffering works holiness not only for the recipient, but for the giver as well. In affliction and suffering we see God’s most beautiful work manifested – the recipient being made more and more fit to enjoy Him who is infinitely holy; and the giver being a dispenser of the most wondrous form of love – that of grace towards the undeserving.
Let us never balk at the trials and afflictions that God has brought into our lives, but praise him still, for they are evidence of his great love towards us. And let us never neglect showing good to those who suffer, for when we minister to them, we share in the greatest love that God has, that same love that has been shown to us: grace to the undeserving.