Have you ever witnessed a child behave in an unrestrained manner? What I’m talking about are those moments when we see a child creating chaos, or throwing an uncontrollable fit in the grocery store. I don’t know about you, but the first thing I ask myself is ‘where is their parent’? Being a parent myself, I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of people asking themselves the same thing in regard to us and our children, but the point I’m trying to make is that our instincts in moments like this reveal a powerful truth we all know; children need guidance. If a child were to be left to make all the decisions of their life, most wouldn’t go to school, eat healthy, go to bed when they should, share, clean up their messes, be patient when they want something…and the list goes on. Children need guidance, rules, and discipline; without it, their lives would be complete messes. A loving parent disciplines their child, corrects them, sets rules for them, and gives them guidance.
Why is it then that so many of us struggle with the idea that God would care about our behavior? Or that God disciplines his children? I have heard the argument that if God were a loving God, he would not ‘give and take away’. But I believe it is the exact opposite.
The Love of Discipline
Wouldn’t a loving parent take away something their child wants if it is for their protection? Like candy if they have had too much sweets, or a dangerous object they have gotten their hands on. Or even taking away something good to teach them a consequence to some behavior or action.
The recipients of the letter we now call the book of Hebrews seemed to struggle with discipline from God.
The author writes:
… have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said,
“My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t give up when he corrects you.
For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”
Just as discipline (done properly) is a sign of love from a parent, so it is with God toward us; his children. The rules he set for us to follow, the consequences of our actions, certain things that are taken away from us; these are not the result of some killjoy in the sky, or over-controlling God. Rather they are the result of a God who loves us and desires what is BEST for us.
It’s no wonder many of our lives are marked by hurt, pain, and complete messiness. We are like children wanting to make our own rules and live by our decisions alone, yet much like children, we lack the understanding to comprehend the messes these desires will land us in.
The author of Hebrews continues:
As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever
For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
We may never fully grasp the “why’s” for God’s rules and standards, but I promise you, as our creator and father, he knows best. Yes, our God is a God who “gives and takes away”. But his discipline is another display of his perfect Love for us. May we learn to embrace his guidance, his correction, his discipline, so that we may grow into the people he designed us to be.