On Sunday mornings recently, we’ve been following the story of Jacob’s family through Genesis 25- 32. The strange episode in Genesis 32 by the river Jabbok is perhaps the great turning point of Jacob’s life. One night he wrestles with a mysterious man who he later learns is no less than God himself! Among other things, the story confronts us with a Biblical teaching that is both comforting and disconcerting; God wrestles those he loves. We find the same teaching, of God’s loving discipline, in Hebrews 12:5-11. Like a good parent, God loves us too much not to discipline us.
‘And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined – and everyone undergoes discipline – then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.’
Many of us will be able to see ways in which God has used di cult experiences to grow us in wisdom, love and maturity. Here are two poems that I’ve personally found helpful in reflecting on the loving discipline of the LORD in my life:
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
When God wants to mould a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendour out – God knows what He’s about.
But left me none the wiser For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow; And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.
Robert Browning Hamilton