Have you ever been in a position of discipline? Would you describe yourself as a pro-disciplinarian, or a free-development proponent? Do these perspectives reflect what you expect of and for yourself? Are you willing to receive discipline yourself, or have you decided long ago that you will have none of it?
Perhaps you see no use for it. “Discipline does not do anything for a person but depress his spirit or diminish his creativity,” you might say. But, maybe if the purposes of discipline were clear, its worth would be more easily conceivable. Discipline serves a greater purpose than the immediate can always fully showcase. Yet, its impact cannot be denied. Discipline is useful because it deals with the heart at its core, not being satisfied unless it is set right. Discipline must always take for granted the fact that the heart is not inherently good or right. Wrong actions are the result of a wrong heart and not a wrong situation or wrong influences.
Therefore various forms of correction are employed for the sake of adjusting the heart. Yet, we do not expect mere disciplinary measures, as imperfect as they are when administered by human intelligence, to change a heart. The primary role of these pressures or punishments are designed to facilitate transformation. Certain codes of conduct or attempts to constrict an individual will produce certain behaviors according to their relative severity. But, in the absence of these particular judgments, how will the natural rhythms of the human heart manifest themselves? If discipline cannot open us up to more, we will come out of these rule-regimes, as one might like to call them, and be unchanged.
Truly the only benefit of embracing disciple — whether we are engaged in administering it or receiving it — is in receiving the action of the Holy Spirit. This makes sense because we cannot trust anything else to correct or recreate our unsavory orientations. Without this avenue for the Holy Spirit we could not be convicted of our sin and presented with the Way to turn from it. The end of every act of His chastisement is nothing less than a heart that agrees with God.
If this gain sounds more like the work of manipulation than a gracious gift than, lets consider what we have here. We each are in our best form when our hearts are right. Our hearts cannot be right if they are characterized by selfishness, rebellion against God, or pride. Because these things are so integrated into our personalities, every nuance must be meticulously routed out for us to live in harmony with God and man.
Thus we cannot rely on our own responses to what He does with us or how He does it. The feelings that rise up within us while we are being corrected and challenged are contrary to His intentions. This is where faith comes in. We must believe that God’s heart is more abundant towards us than our own is, even when we do not understand all that He has in mind for us. When this kind of trust takes root even when we are in the midst of personal adversity, we will not be separated from the deepest joys of the human experience that God created for us in Christ.
God’s discipline will often be harder than we think it has to be. But, we must realize that this is the most clear evidence we have that everything God is doing with us is accomplishing exactly what it is supposed to be: Our sin is being revealed and our hearts are being turned back to Him in repentance and reconciliation.
Lets save ourselves the trouble of trying to determine how God should discipline us. Since we are the ones in the wrong, we cannot expect the One in the right to be anything that we would readily affirm. We must submit ourselves to a continuous process of His washing and regenerating of our hearts. Regardless of whether God should see fit to walk with you through one long trial, or pepper your days with an odd assortment of smaller ones, be encouraged that He knows what He is doing. Your heart and all the requirements for righteous-reformation that it presents to your Savior are never dismissed or incorrectly targeted.
He understands that your godlessness and distrust of His ways are too subliminal for you to appreciate unless He lets you see what He sees. Thus, don’t be surprised when He guides a barrage of unfamiliar afflictions to display this distrust in layer after layer of your heart.
You may have been through trials that have brought you closer to God, but yet you still doubt that going through another one could do anything but ruin you. You have gotten to the point where you feel like you trust God in the troubles you’re in now, but you would have great difficulty in transferring that confidence to a new trial. But we should not expect God’s discipline to look the same every time. In each trial He will work on our hearts very specifically, always building on the work He has already done, that He might progressively impress upon our hearts just how much we have need of His salvation. He may use the least likely means to affect His will, yet (is it possible?) that He knows our faith is lacking in divinely inspired imagination? You have faith in Him because of what He has already done in your life, but you remain uncomfortable with any methods He may unveil with which you have not had previous experience.
Yet, what if our Redeemers plans for us are too wide-spread for us to see until we give all our small expectations of Him over to Him that He may widen and deepen them? Can we not comprehend that He should set up His work in our lives to accomplish more than a single measure of correction? Can He do more than we can and be worshiped for it?
If you are having trouble constantly finding fault with the paths God’s sovereignty is taking in your life — or your mess, as it may seem — take this to heart: We cannot expect God to do what is contrary to His law just for the sake of wrapping up our problems. If we want healing, we must be willing to allow Him to do the work He has to do in us (or our loved ones) to first heal our breach with Him. Our human difficulties and the absence of wholeness in us always stems from being removed from God. We must come to Him, letting our hearts be reconciled to Him, before we can know any of these things that we seek. Once we have grown in the knowledge of Him to some significant degree we will be able to trust Him enough to freely permit all of His righteousness to work upon us, even in cutting away and suturing our sin-wounded hearts.