Today’s passage addresses one of the great misconceptions in the church today. For some reason, somewhere along the way, Christians started believing that coming to Christ meant that everything in life was going to get better. All our problems would go away and “there shall be showers of blessing, this is the promise of love” Then when trouble comes, when things get difficult or more precisely, when God doesn’t do things according to our predefined step by step agenda, well, then we start to think that God doesn’t love us. 

I know this is how we think because I hear people talk this way quite often. But even more than that, I know this is how we think because I struggle with thinking this way. We long for God to give us all the good things and to keep away all the bad things. And that has to do, at least in part, with our perception of “bad” things. 

That, I believe, is the author’s intent with todays’ passage. He is trying to reshape how the readers perceive hardship. in verse 6 the author quotes from Proverbs 3:11-12 by saying: “The Lord disciplines the one he loves.” Then in verse 7, he says “endure hardship as discipline.” Let’s see if we can draw these two ideas together. 

First, “The Lord disciplines the one he loves.” He later says: “God is treating you as children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined…then you are not legitimate, not true sons or daughters at all.” 

Of course, like so many things in our “advanced” modern society, disciplining our children has become a hot button topic. Some of us have heard the arguments of so-called scholars about the negative effects of discipline so we don’t discipline our kids. Others didn’t have an example of discipline growing up, so we don’t discipline our kids. Still others were under disciplined or over disciplined, and as a result we don’t discipline our kids. There is a lie in all this. We think it’s loving our kids to not discipline them. Scripture teaches an entirely different story. 

Scripture teaches thoughtful discipline. Not exasperation but not abdication. It’s not discipline because we’re angry or because we’re the adult. It’s discipline because we love our kids. We love our kids too much to let them do things that are going to harm themselves or others. We love our kids too much to just let things go and hope things turn out alright. 

Telling the truth is a big deal in our house. That’s one thing that we have been pretty diligent about addressing when it arises. If our kids do something wrong and tell the truth about it, they get less punishment than if they do something wrong and lie about it. This is for their good, because we want to make sure they grow up to be honest adults. When you’re dishonest as an adult, at worst you end up in jail, at best you end up working on wall street. When you’re dishonest as an adult you can’t keep a job, you can’t keep a spouse, you can’t keep a house, there are a lot of things that you lose out on. So, because we love our kids, we discipline them when they are dishonest. 

At the same time, I don’t discipline other people’s kids when they’re dishonest. Maybe I should. Maybe that’s something that’s missing from our modern, lone-ranger approach to family. But, I don’t do it, because they’re not my children. 

When you love your children, you do what’s best for their development into adults, not what’s going to keep them from crying and throwing a fit. Perhaps an example will help. 

For the past several years our kids have been attending AWANA at a church kind of near our house. One of the big events for AWANA is the Grand Prix. It’s the pinewood derby for church kids. Well, the first year we entered I had no idea how to make a competitive race car. And all the kids lost horribly in the tournament. I felt horrible. The worst part was the car ride home. The kids held it together until we got into the car. But once we pulled out of the parking lot the tears started flowing. For some of them they didn’t stop until they went to sleep. It was hard on them and us. 

Now, I could have led a campaign to make sure that every kid who entered the race got a trophy. I could have donated the fund for the trophies because I didn’t want my kids to go through the pain of losing again. And on that car ride, I was tempted to buy them trophies myself. But, there’s another lesson in life that’s important to learn, how to lose. 

It might seem like good parenting to make sure that my kid never feels the pain of a loss while they’re under my roof. And, like has happened with some in younger generations, I could even try to make sure that they don’t feel the pain of a loss once they’re adults by calling their boss when there’s a problem. But, as hard as I try, at some point in their lives they will lose. So, is it better to try to protect them from the pain of a loss or to teach and prepare them how to deal with losing? One is easier in the moment, one is better for maturity. One is harder in the car when they’re sobbing. One makes the sobbing stop, for now. 

So, we let our kids endure the hardship of losing. We let them enter cars the next year when one of them won a prize but the others didn’t. And there was still crying on the car ride home. The next year it was the same thing. And yes, there was still some crying. But, by letting our kids endure the hardship of losing and talking them through it while they’re under our care, we can help teach them how to deal with the emotions and pain of a loss. 
As an adult, I’ve been around some other adults who have been coddled their whole lives. They’ve never lost, never had to endure much difficulty of any kind. It’s no surprise then, when something small happens to them it can be earth shattering. They are incredibly immature and it’s incredibly difficult to be around them for extended periods of time. Mainly because I have to fight the urge to try to parent them. Coddling isn’t love. Sure, I’d argue that it is love for a certain age, but it doesn’t last for long. Coddling is really something we do as parents because we want the crying to stop or because we are imposing our brokenness onto our kids. 

God is a perfect Father for his kids. And because he is a perfect Father, he disciplines us. Because He is perfect, he lets us go through hard things in life. He does not want us to be incapable of dealing with hardships, struggles, pain and suffering. In fact, He wants us to be able to deal with them the way a true son or daughter of God would deal with them. 

Remember vs. 4 is about Jesus suffering in the garden before going to the cross. Jesus had to endure hardship. He had to struggle the point of shedding blood. Jesus faced the temptation of rebelling against God, knowing that what lied ahead of Him was the greatest hardship any human would ever endure. He wouldn’t just experience the physical pain, but he would receive the wrath God had against the rebellion of every human. 

And He prayed to the Father to not go through with it. He asked the Father for another way, an easier way, something that didn’t require so much. He begged for hours to the Father to make it go away. But, the Father knew that going through with it would have a far better result. And so, even though the Father had to witness violent crimes against his one and only Son, even though God had to see his son lose everything that was important to Him, God let Jesus go through it. Because He love Him and Because He loves us. 
So, if you’re going through something difficult right now, no, that doesn’t mean that God has stopped loving you. The opposite is true. He sees something better for you. And he’s too good a Father to let you settle for anything less than His absolute best for your life. Endure it, for it’s because of it that you know that you are being loved. 

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