Those things that hurt, instruct. —Benjamin Franklin
It was a three-day weekend, and my bags were waiting by the front door. I was daydreaming about skiing the white fluffy stuff with my friends when the phone rang. In less than three minutes, my teacher informed my mom about my struggles in math, told her about a bundle of homework in my backpack that was due on Monday, and effectively ruined my ski weekend.
After a short powwow in the kitchen, my parents told me to unpack my bags. I spent that weekend sitting at the kitchen table doing homework. I was convinced I had the worst parents in the world.
Today, I realize how deeply my parents believed in their motto: “Work before play.” In order to train me in that same belief, they allowed a bit of pain to enter my life that weekend.
Why? Because often, a little pain helps us grow. The same is true in our spiritual life. Yet many of us believe pain and suffering are the direct result of our sin. And we back up this poor theology with verses like the following:
In your struggle against sin … “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline and do not lose heart when he rebukes you.” (Hebrews 12:4-5)
We’ve already discussed that the “sin” referenced in Hebrews 12:4 refers to acts of persecution against the Hebrew church. But just in case you’re still convinced God punishes people for their sins, I’d like to reference a few other verses that show the opposite is true:
- No sacrifice for sins is left (Hebrews 10:26).
- I… will remember their sins no more (Hebrews 8:12).
- And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary (Hebrews 10:18).
God isn’t disciplining you because of your sin. God’s discipline is not about punishment. The cross makes any punishment unnecessary.
Does God allow pain to enter our lives if He knows it will help us grow? Yes. But enduring hardship as discipline is nothing about punishment and everything about strength training and growth.
Lord, to prefer zero discipline is to choose stunted growth, and I know You love me too much to leave me stagnant. You’re my strength; help me live like it. Amen.