On Friday I shared the first of my thoughts on the "why do we suffer" question from this passage in Hebrews:
You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:4-11
Today I want to shift gears away from the "striving against sin" discussion and look at what the bulk of this passage deals with: discipline.
First we must address the question, what is discipline? We often equate discipline and punishment, but they are not synonymous. True, punishment is a part of discipline, but only a part. It is as much about training our character as anything else. Even when we’re not dealing with the punishment aspect of discipline, however, it’s still typically not very pleasant. The rewards of discipline are wonderful, but discipline itself is just not fun.
If you need proof of that, just chat with my kids! They have to deal with such horrible things as chores, deprivation of certain delights or indulgences, and a daily structure and schedule, among many other things. On certain days of the week, my son is convinced that he is suffering horribly by being told he must take a nap. Naptime may or may not be specifically related to a need for rest that day, but it is always related to his overall need for rest and good health. To a five-year-old boy, naps are the epitome of suffering. To me they are appropriate, loving discipline to help him grow well physically, mentally, and emotionally.
As much as I hate any form of suffering or struggle, I do gain much perspective from the discipline I must administer to my children. I am increasingly convinced that a path devoid of suffering is a dangerous path indeed. If we are not struggling in at least some area of life, then it is very possible we are not striving against sin nor are we being lovingly disciplined by our Father. I would love a suffering-free life. But, I hunger even more to know that I am being raised up as a child of God, conforming more and more to the likeness of Christ every day. That requires suffering.
I cannot give you a specific positive result for every struggle you face. Maybe God will show you one, but it’s very possible He won’t. But I hope that either way you can be comforted in knowing that your struggles are a part of the battle against the sin of this world and are evidence that God is disciplining you. And that, my friend, is a very good thing.