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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Discipline of Suffering

The Question of the Week on Bullets and Butterflies last Saturday was "Why Suffering?" The answer will be expanded on this week's posts here.

"No pain no gain."
~ Mantra of Athletes

The Discipline of Suffering

"For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and He whips every son whom He receives." ... If you do not receive discipline (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are bastards and not sons.
~ Hebrews 12:6,8 (author)

In the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.
~ Hebrews 5:7-8 (NKJV)

Depending on motivation, the discipline of suffering is seen as either desirable or undesirable.

Discipline is defined as training, and the controlled behavior which results from training. When athletes train, they inflict pain on themselves that would be considered cruelty from anyone else. With motivation to attain a goal, discipline is valued.

Discipline can also refer to chastening for the purpose of corrective training. When an authority wishes to motivate us to achieve a goal we’ve yet to make our own, correction is at best humbling, and at worst painful. The discipline of suffering is rejected.

The Lord’s goal for us is to humble us so we are able to know Him, able to love Him, able to be like Him. He wants us as His disciples. A good disciple requires both self-imposed and God-imposed discipline.

When yielded to the Holy Spirit, we may experience pain, but it is possible to embrace that pain with faith that it is God’s instrument of training. But if we doubt God's goodness, cling to pride, or make pain avoidance a higher goal than discipleship, we will not only resent suffering, but may even find that doubt or pride or pain avoidance becomes a god which usurps God.

Discipline can be given to not only individuals but also groups of people, such as when natural disaster occurs. If—if it seems that areas hit by disaster are characterized by flagrant immorality (such as New Orleans and Haiti), I would contend against anyone who cries “Judgment!” that God’s judgment is reserved for a time yet to come. Disaster is simply God’s discipline, to train those yielded to God, to chastise those who need to be humbled, to warn those who will not be humbled that judgment shall be more painful than discipline.

If inclined to complain “Not fair!” about the discipline of suffering, it helps to remember that the only righteous Person undeserving of suffering was Jesus, and His is the greatest suffering of all—not just the pain of Calvary, but of all suffering every human has ever known.

More on that for Friday’s post, “The Overcoming of Suffering.”

Lord Jesus, please let us ever be grateful for the great suffering You endured to prevent our eternal suffering. Please help us to believe that our Father loves us when He chastens us. Please let our love for You motivate us to cooperate with Your Holy Spirit.

Contrasting points-of-view, questions and feedback are invited. Post to "Comments" or e-mail to Copyright 2009, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
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  1. I agree. Suffering is not necessarily exclusively negative. Interesting post.

  2. Amen to this post sis. My Father chastens me, because He loves me.

  3. The world loves to fill our ears with rhetoric, but the Lord with truth. His discipline in my own life has been (in hindsight) a concentration of blessings.

  4. The deeper we grow, the more we want to know. That every day longing, every moment rapture is the devotion I long for. But I have to start somewhere, in that first simple moment of “here I am God, Just as I am.” And sometimes that means starting with discipline. "Root out the bad"

    Red Letter Believers, “Salt and Light”

  5. Something to meditate about.

  6. I think I know why I had to wrestle with your earlier post. Reading this one brought out something. I think, if I'm honest I still fear certain times of suffering came as a form of punishment in my life--as judgment.

    Breaking through this thinking. Thanks for these posts. May I receive God's discipline with fresh understanding.
    ~ Wendy

  7. well, your first verse made me run to the Word when you used the word "whip."

    but the second group really makes me stop and think about Jesus. never thought about Him "fearing" God...His Father. He knew beforehand all that was going to happen to Him. another part that makes stop and think is that the Lord was "learning" obedience to His Father. am i reading/understanding this right?

    i'm a day behind here and am still thinking and chewing about Job.

  8. and now i'm chewing on this too. Lately it seem's as though i'm learning about more about our Lord in a different light. Jesus fearing His Father... and also fearing the suffering He knew He was going to endure. it makes me think again your statement that unless we realize how much He suffered for us....that our gratitude to Him would be light and our love for Him would be little.

  9. [I'm sorry to be take so long to respond to comments this time. Thanks to everyone for your patience.]

    Elizabeth ~ I'm encouraged to hear your feedback and happy to see you. :D

    Denise ~ You are one of the most gracious people I've ever seen where suffering is concerned. The Lord will surely bless and reward you for it.

    T ~ I'm trying to merge hindsight with foresight and now-sight.

    David ~ If there is rapture in every moment I have to believe it is simply the peace of heart which knows without a doubt that the Lord works all for good for those who love Him. Beyond that, I've got to confess that I really struggle to embrace the pain by which I gain.

    Natasa ~ I'm grateful that you find these words worthy of reflection, and pray the Lord illuminates them as He'd apply them in your life.

    Wendy ~ How can I tell you how much your words mean? I do feel I could write a whole book on the topic of suffering and still not manage to address all the points on which we stumble. Keep seeking His answers.

    Bud ~ It is an amazing thing to consider that although He has always been God, Jesus as a Son to the Father experienced "godly fear" and "learned obedience." The humanity of Jesus is as real as his divinity. His empathy for us and for our suffering is just as real.


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