Sustaining the Saints in Suffering
Guest Blogger: Pat Quinn (Director of Counseling Ministries)
I recently preached on Hebrews 12: 1-11 about understanding and enduring suffering as the Father’s painful loving discipline. The writer says in verse 11, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant.” Pain is always hard to endure, but we compound and intensify the pain if we either don’t know what God is doing or, worse, actually think he’s turned against us. Now he doesn’t promise to tell us why we will experience this pain, though it may be long and intense. But he does tell us what he’s up to is for our encouragement and endurance in verse 7: “It is for discipline that you have to endure.” (see also Deut 8: 5, 16—”Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you…that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end“). Here are a couple of truths from this passage to remember in order to better understand and endure suffering in a way that promotes God-glorifying holiness and ultimate happiness:
God’s discipline is an expression of his fatherly love for our sanctification: Verses 7 and 10 say, “For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?…He disciplines us…that we may share his holiness.” This is so important to remember and so hard to trust when life is chaotic and painful. When my daughter was little she used to get ear infections and I remember taking her to her pediatrician one time. He wasn’t able to see into her ear due to wax so he got out a sharp pointy instrument to pick the wax out. My daughter got very scared and I had to hold her down while the doctor poked around. Because of her thrashing he cut her ear, which just made her more terrified. Although I wanted to punch the doctor, I had to hold her down while he “hurt” her—for her good. When we left, I don’t remember her saying, “Thanks, Dad, I really needed you to hold me down.” She was probably thinking, “Why did my Dad help this man hurt me?!” Sometimes God has to hold us down and make us bleed too. We don’t understand, we’re scared, but he knows what he’s doing. Jesus was held down and made to bleed by his Father too; but it was for his ultimate glory and for our salvation.
God’s discipline is assurance that you are indeed a born again beloved child of God. Assurance of salvation is a precious thing—a strong tower in all kinds of trouble. Some struggle deeply as they seek it and it seems to elude them. Verses 7-8 tells us one significant way God assures us we are his beloved child. “God is treating you as sons…If you are left without discipline…then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Painful discipline in your life is God’s assurance that you are the real deal—a true child of God! When my son was small I had to spank him on occasion. One time, after getting spanked, he said to his sister, “It didn’t hurt!” I heard him, brought him back for one more “spank,” and then assured him of my love for him. As he walked away the second time he knew two things for sure: “My bottom really hurts!” and “That’s my Dad.” The spanking was in the context of a loving relationship and was for the sake of the relationship.
Let us remember and help others understand God’s loving purposes in his painful discipline.