If you’re like me, you read this verse and it evokes a bunch of hope but also a big eye roll, an empty feeling of confusion, and a little bit of awkward anticipation. This passage is really good for me, and also hard, and also painful, and also just unknown. I don’t know if you felt the same thing but I do know that God’s discipline is a weird thing to think about. So, let’s dive in and try and see if we can break this down a little more.
Hebrews 12 is all about discipline and I encourage you to read the entire chapter. (you can read it here.) It's saturated with incredible things on God disciplining His children. The writer of Hebrews kinds of breaks it down for us and explains in verse 11 that discipline from God is not the most fun process to be taken through. Although, painful and refining, God disciplines His children in an effort to train us up and take us to ever-increasing levels of faith and pursuit of God. So what does God disciplining us look like? The truth of the matter is it can come in whatever way God sees best. Verse 7 in Hebrews 12 helps clarify saying, “endure hardship as discipline.” Sometimes that looks like a period of time where patience and perseverance is required when waiting on God to do something. Sometimes it looks like a season of crying out to God in faith that he will open a door or answer a long-awaited prayer request. Sometimes it looks like that feeling of conviction you get at a Wesley service where you know you are going to have to make a change in your life (even though that means getting rid of things or people or habits that you like) because you can’t rid yourself of that nauseous feeling in your gut. These things are painful, and the writer of Hebrews tells us that that's the case. But through these this desert, God takes us into a fruitful land where we can flourish.
This concept can be kind of hard to grasp. How can God send us through hardship and it be good for us? How is that fair? I think from here a couple of distinctions need to be made. First, let me make the distinction between the hardship (that the Hebrews author refers to in Ch. 12 verse 7) and tragedy. God in his goodness and his righteousness doesn’t create tragedy, but from his goodness and righteousness, God may allow it to happen to His children. Second, let me distinguish the difference in discipline and punishment. Punishment is for rebuke and wrath. The attitude here from God is ANGER. Discipline is meant for training, correcting, and growth. The attitude here is LOVE. God sent His son so that we have a way out of the punishment He will bring on those who do not believe in Him as Lord. We, as believers, get to live in the love of Christ as God disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:10b).
God sends us through periods of time that are challenging, and when easy is not what is best to lead us to a future that God has intended. We are loved by our Father and He gives us the patience and perseverance to endure those times of discipline and the grace to learn and gain a knowledge that could not come from any other experience. Check out Romans 5:1-5. It can help clarify that a little. God takes us through this, although hard at first, in order that we may experience “a HARVEST of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained!” That is our hope. That is where the God’s love for us shines. The pain of discipline is worth the harvest.
- Ladd Morgan