“the Lord disciplines those he loves” Hebrews 12.6From David King
Last Sunday we finished our short series on Jacob and inevitably there are treasures from God’s word that are left littering the floor of my study – things which didn’t make the cut. So here’s one of them.
We saw during the series, both that God blesses in the messes, but also that there is blessing in the wrestling. Central to both of these is the truth that it is in our darkest and most challenging times that we are closest to the blessing of God. But this raised the question – why does it have to be that way? Why can’t God simply bless us with an easy life.
For Jacob we saw that one reason was that he needed to be made capable of receiving the blessing, but another reason, we didn’t have time for, is that it is through the hard times that God blesses us, by transforming us. This is what the book of Hebrews calls the Father’s discipline (Hebrews 12.4-13)
If in the past we too casually made a link in the life of the believer between our struggles and our sin and we did not recognise the insensitivity and self-righteousness that was often disguised in assertion. Now, I think, we separate them out too much and in so doing we are in danger of wasting our suffering. We think that the best outcome is that we survive, whereas God intends that we will thrive. Hebrews 12 (illustrated by Jacob’s story) outlines what that link is. The link between our suffering and our sin is not that God is condemning our sin, but that God he is using our struggles to help free us from our sin. It is the language of the training ground and not the court room.
Both the training ground and the courtroom exist because we get things wrong, the difference is in the focus and the context. In terms of focus, the courtroom is focused on the failing and making sure that there is payment for it – at its most brutal it cares nothing for the person in the dock. The training ground on the other hand is focused on the person and seeking to make them better.
The other difference is context – the training ground is proactive and personal, whereas the courtroom is reactive and impersonal. The courtroom is looking back towards the crime – the punishment must fit the crime, the training ground is looking forward to future flourishing. More often than not the struggle is not directly linked to the sin at all.
So how do our sufferings achieve this – how do they train us to free us. There are lots of ways, but underlying many of them is freeing us from our idols. When hard times hit, we tend to double down on our idols – we go to them more. But as we do so we start to see their true character. They start to demand more and more from us and deliver less and less. The boxset which gave us an escape has started to get boring; the food that gave us a buzz is leaving us feeling unhappy with our bodies; the internet search is becoming repetitive and is bringing less happiness each time.
As the suffering goes on, we become sick of our idols – their mask is stripped away and we see the rottenness beneath and the chains that bind us to them. It is at thisstage, that the believer turns to the Lord. She abandons the broken cisterns of her idols and goes to the waters of Shiloh. And in that moment of deepest suffering the believer finds an intimacy, a joy and a peace that surpasses all understanding. In the depths they find the Lord.
So if you are going through a dark or hard place at the moment, ask the Lord to show you in what area of your life he is looking to set you free from sin – it is so much bettere if the one training knows the mind of the one coaching.
See the next blog for the lesson Jacob learns…