Monday, October 16, 2006

The Discipline of the Lord (Part 2)

(Hey, here's a new look to the page... but the same old pablum from my wife's husband... )

'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. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

I'm continuing to wrestle with this passage. I'm finding that it is incredibly comforting to know that God has a plan for my life that even contemplates painful circumstances. And a number of circumstances in our lives lately have been painful:

  • The loss of my wife's mother
  • Extended family difficulties
  • Painful church experiences

And now, we've discovered that there is the specter of uncertaintly over our youngest son, a cancer survivor 12 years ago, now diagnosed with melanoma. Is it ok? Is it not? A roller coaster of emotions as we sort through encouraging and confusing information. Oh yeah, and the waiting... that's fun too. Surgery tomorrow, learning about things like "wide local excisions" and "sentinel node biopsies" - chest x-rays, a call from the surgeon to "go get a CT scan, we're not worried, but the radiologists see some things not normal for a 12 year old" - call to the oncologist, etc., etc.... blah blah blah. Ecch.

So, I've been thinking: Is it the Lord's discipline that I'm feeling? Is it sin (personal or corporate)? Is it merely the random difficulties of life common to all in a fallen world? And whatever it is, how am I supposed to react?

My answer? I don't know. I can't figure it out. My perspective is so temporal... so parochial. Maybe more to the point, I don't even think I'm supposed to know. The Bible says that I'm supposed to "trust in the LORD with all [my] heart, and do not lean on [my] own understanding." (Prov. 3:5) So I'm trusting, and have decided that no matter what, I'll learn what I can during this season of life.

That's why the commandment in this passage is gripping me: "Do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord."

The Greek compound word here (I'm told) means "to have little esteem for something, to think lightly or make lightly..." (BDAG). I'm coming to understand that this is my natural bent, my first reaction to difficulty - I have "little esteem" for it. I mean that I don't see any redeemable good in the problem and I want to make it go away. My mindset is that life will be ok again when this bad thing is removed - it never should have happened. I'm regarding it lightly... refusing to see that a good and loving Father may be allowing - or even causing - the circumstance for my good.

Discipline takes many forms in my house. It's corrective (when one of my kids have broken the rules), but sometimes its just training... building them up, preparing them for greater work ahead. If you go through life never having to do a chore, how do you get prepared to hold down a job? (By the way, I'm not accepting comments from my kids on that comment).

I'm coming to see the issues in life as God's discipline - whether corrective or proscriptive, my perspective is to see that - no matter what - it can be good. Even when it hurts like crazy at the moment.

Two weeks ago, our basement took on a little water for the first time in 12 years. While I was writing this, the service people we called finally showed up, and told me that I've got a huge mess (lots of contorted faces, hand-wringing and big dollars under discussion). I've got to say that while I'm not totally convinced I need the bio-hazard services into my home in the next 24 hours, I am increasingly convinced that God means it when He said through Paul:

"...And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.'

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

What if He actually means it? :) Thinking about it all, I'm deciding this: I'm going to see God's good hand in all that life throws at me - even the bad things. "Though he slay me, I will hope in him..." (Job 13:15). I've decided that I'll trust the loving character of my Father in heaven, and not "regard lightly" the discipline of the Lord.

1 comment:

Shiloh Guy said...

I've known you for a long time and you have seen a lot of the Lord's working in your life through severe mercies. By the way, I'd send you back to that excellent book, A Severe Mercy, for a pretty good perspective on this issue. As long as I'm recommending books, how about Lewis' own, A Grief Observed? These have been so helpful to my perspective as I have travelled through my own valleys shadowed by death.

Remember when we looked at the older people in our church and pooh-poohed them because they just couldn't grasp the radical kind of faith that was gripping us? I mean, what does that generation know about spiritual things? Now that I am even older than some of them were I begin to understand the importance of listening to people who have some experience in walking with God through all kinds of life experiences.

Usually one has to live with God for a little while before he/she can speak to this matter to suffering, discipline,endurance with any degree of wisdom. I've seen God bless you with severe mercy and I've seen you grow through it. Count it all joy that he intends to continue what he has begun in you.

Those are not just banal words. I've wrestled feverishly for a number of years, as you know, and God has pinned me every time. Funny thing, when God is pinning you and you are lying there on your back you're closer to his face than at any other time!