When God's Love Hurts

“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives’ ” (Hebrews 12:5-6).

God’s love manifests itself in many ways. He provides for our needs, He cheers us when we’re depressed, He answers our prayers, and many other tokens of His love. But sometimes His love comes to us in ways we may not understand. The passage above describes God’s love that comes to us as discipline. When God disciplines us, we feel pain and often ashamed. In fact, we don’t always recognize this sort of love. We think that God is angry with us and wants to disown us. But God’s love comes to us in ways that help, not hurt us.

How can we better understand this discipline?

1. God takes the long view.
In our haste, we often fail to see where our actions will take us. We buy things we don’t need, and we form relationships that will hurt us in the long term. But God takes a different approach. When we stray from His perfect plan, God chastens us so that we will once again draw close to Him. Satan wants us to jump at every form of bait dangled before us. But God disciplines us to keep us aligned with His purposes. In the end, we will rejoice that God applied His love in this way, even though it hurt.

2. God wants us to grow in holiness.
When God saved us, He saved us to something. The Apostle Paul makes this clear when writing to the Thessalonians:

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

God’s word assigns us His purpose for our lives: to grow in holiness (see also 1 Peter 1:15-16). If we want to live for Him, He loves us enough to apply needed discipline in order to keep our hearts in the right place. Since God wants us to grow in holiness, He will apply discipline when we stray for that purpose. We should daily thank Him for caring enough about us to love us that way.

3. God wants to keep us from hurting ourselves.
When Satan seeks to lure us to dangerous places, God knows the ruin that would result. In love, He seeks to spare us this grief by having us pass through temporary discipline so that we will escape long term pain. God wants to keep us from ways that would only harm us. Such is the wise God we serve! He loves us enough to chasten us when He sees the danger ahead.

Of course we should praise God when He comes through with a remarkable answer to prayer, or delivers us in some way. But we should also be quick to thank Him when He applies His discipline to our ways. He loves us enough to keep us from dangers unseen.

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