The Father's Chastening
Francis Bourdillon, 1864
"And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: '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 scourges everyone he accepts as a son.'
Endure hardship as discipline — God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 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 our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while, as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, 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. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees."
We are apt to forget — just when we ought most to remember. While all is well with us — then we can take a right view of trial; but when the trial comes, this is not so easy. At such a time, pain and grief seem often to swallow up all other feelings — and the sense of God's love and mercy is lost.
We are reminded here who it is that sends trouble, and why He sends it. It comes from God — as a fatherly chastisement. It is not mere purposeless trouble — it is trouble sent with an object; and that object is our good. It is "the Lord's discipline." When God thus chastens us — He deals with us as His children. If He did not chasten us — we would be without one proof that we are His children. For as every wise earthly parent disciplines his child when necessary, so does our Heavenly Father discipline those whom He loves and scourges every son whom He receives. Unbroken prosperity, with no check or drawback, is no proof of God's favor.
But our Heavenly Father is not like an earthly parent. He is . . .
wiser than the wisest,
kinder than the kindest,
better than the best!
When we were children, we were disciplined by our parents, and we submitted to their discipline. Yet perhaps they were not always perfectly right in what they did to us. They might sometimes be mistaken in their judgment, or misled by anger. They might occasionally punish us more from feeling angry with us — than from a calm and loving desire for our good. If we submitted to them thus, and rightly too — then how much more should we meekly submit to our Heavenly Father when He chastises us! He . . .
never chastises us amiss,
never fails to love us, and
never afflicts us but in wisdom and kindness.
He knows exactly what kind and what measure of discipline we need — and deals with us accordingly.
A weak, though loving, earthly parent might spare for his child's crying — but our heavenly Father is too wise and too faithful to do so.
One earthly parent more firm in character, but lacking in tenderness — might deal too harshly or continue the punishment too long — but our heavenly Father loves too well for that. In perfect wisdom and perfect love, with unfaltering firmness, yet with tenderest compassion — our Father in Heaven disciplines His children.
Let us not despise His discipline. Let us not make light of it, thinking much perhaps of the affliction itself — but little of Him who sends it. Let us not harden their hearts against it, or refuse to see His hand in it, or look upon it only as a misfortune that has befallen us. Let us receive it as His discipline — in meekness, prayer, and faith.
Let us not faint, when disciplined by Him. Let not our spirit fail. Let us not despond. It is He who is dealing with us. He will not let the discipline be too sharp — or the trial too heavy or too long. He will send with it comfort, grace, and support. Even while smiting — He will heal. Even in the act of rebuking and chastising — He will show some tokens of His mercy and love.
Yet we cannot love the sore trial for its own sake. Pain, sickness and loss are not good in themselves. We must feel them to be afflictions. "No chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous." It could not answer its purpose, if it were otherwise. There must be pain — that there may be profit. And the very trial that will try us most — our Father will appoint for us; another's trial would do us no good.
But we are to look beyond the present. "Nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto those who are exercised thereby." When the pain is over — then the benefit will remain. When the chastening hand is withdrawn — then the blessing of its touch will still be felt. This will be the case with all sanctified affliction — and we are to strive to realize it, even while the affliction is upon us.
Can we not trust our Father? Can we not feel sure that all will be well — because He Himself is dealing with us? In our prosperity, we have often prayed that He would order all our concerns and guide us and bless us and send us all that should be for our good. And what is He doing now, in this time of affliction? Just answering our prayers and doing what we besought Him to do! Shall we complain because He is answering us in a way which we did not expect? Did we not beg Him to deal with us in His own wise way? Did we not often acknowledge our own ignorance and blindness? Let us believe that He heard us — and is answering us. Let us accept His answer, His dealing, His chastisement — in humble faith, nay with thankfulness to Him for His goodness.
Is this hard? His grace is sufficient for us. He can bring us even to this, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" Even an apostle could do nothing without Him.
Look within. Examine your heart and life. See if you can find no cause for this discipline . . .
no fault that needed correction,
no evil habit,
no love of the world,
no backsliding in heart,
no pride or carelessness or self-indulgence.
Humble yourself before God and ask Him, by His Holy Spirit, to give you a deeper knowledge of yourself, and to bring you to true contrition of heart. And pray that you may be enabled more to look to God as your father in Christ Jesus — and to realize that you are His child.
"My son!" says the Lord by His apostle. Strive to take to yourself the comfort of that title — and to hear God speaking to you as His child. "Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines." Try to believe that He loves you — and therefore chastises you.
Put away all hard thoughts of God. Have only humble, submissive, trustful, loving thoughts. Think of your Father as near to you now, as dealing with you in a special way — and cast yourself upon His mercy and love in Christ Jesus.
Then, "the peaceable fruits of righteousness" will surely follow; and even now much quiet peace, the peace of God, will be given in the midst of trouble!