It Only Hurts Because I Love You
Have you ever seen a child try to barter with their parents when they’re being punished? We’ve all done this in one way or another growing up. The funny thing is that the only time a child begins to barter is when they know there’s no other way of escape. When I was in Kindergarten I called one of my female peers a “bad word.” Of course the school notified my parents and I knew I was in for it. When my dad got home, he went up to my room and took off his belt.I cried my eyes out, and I begged him not to spank me with that belt. I promised and I swore up and down that I’d never use that word again. He just looked at me and said, “I know you won’t…now turn around.” Despite my begging, he still punished me for my foul mouth.
What would I have done if my dad had simply put his belt back on without punishing me when I begged and promised him I wouldn’t do it again? I guarantee I would have called another one of my peers that same word! However, I remembered the sting of his belt, and he never had to use it again. That’s sort of like the scenario with the Jews near the end of the book of Jeremiah. In chapters 46-51 God foretells the destruction of various nations, and the severe punishment of the Jews who had rejected His will time after time. What is all this destruction supposed to teach those Jews, and why should it matter to us? God says:
“O Jacob My servant, do not fear,” declares the Lord, “For I am with you. For I will make a full end of all the nations where I have driven you, yet I will not make a full end of you; but I will correct you properly and by no means leave you unpunished.” (Jeremiah 46:28)
When the nation of Babylon finally busted down the gates of Jerusalem the unfaithful Jews begin to cry out to their God. They begged and pleaded and asked God to relent. While God was willing to take any repentant Jew back spiritually, they were still going to be in Babylonian captivity for 70 years whether they liked it or not. If God had not followed through with punishing them for their unfaithfulness, the Jews would never have whole-heartedly returned to God. God still disciplines His children for the same reason today:
“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 12:10–11)
Many times God allows difficulties and hardships into our lives so that we’ll recognize our need for Him and return. Just like our parents, God disciplines us for our own good. Sometimes there are physical and emotional consequences from our sin that will remain to remind us of our need for God’s righteous rule in our lives. Now this does NOT mean that every painful thing that happens is God’s doing. In fact it’s a sin to say that God is punishing us when we don’t know for sure (cf. Job 42:7-8). However God allows us to experience pain as a reminder of our eternal need for Him. When we’re going through hard times, we shouldn’t blame God, but we also shouldn’t simply beg God to take away the pain. We need to learn to use the pain in our lives as motivation to return to God and thank Him for His forgiveness and mercy.