While writing this week’s message, something happened that made me angry. Isn’t that the enemy’s way? Don’t let anger turn into bitterness.
So, I had this devotional idea to write about discipline, after I came across a few verses in Proverbs 19 that I’ll share below. I was thinking about telling the story of how my brother once kicked a hole in my bedroom door because sweet, lil’ innocent me made him mad for some reason or another that I’m sure was his fault, to begin with. 😉
I pondered this idea for a few days, and then – I kid you not – one of my boys lost his temper and put a boot-toe-sized hole in a brother’s bedroom door. I would prefer to only share the stories about how darling my children are, and how much they love each other. Those things are true … on certain days. On other days, the proverbial organic fertilizer hits the fan.
Sometimes I wish God’s instructions would be written on the wall for me. (See Daniel 5 for the wall-writing reference.) Trying to decide on the right punishment to fit the offense is one of the hardest things for me as a parent. I don’t share stories about my kids because I think I’m an awesome parent. Believe me, I screw up all the time and question myself way more often than I feel confident. I do know, however, that learning to accept responsibility for your actions is a huge part of becoming a mature adult. Proverbs 19:18 warns parents that if we fail to hold our kids accountable to their choices, then we are contributing to ruining their lives! Ouch. Verse 19 (NLT) goes on to say, “Hot-tempered people must pay the penalty. If you rescue them once, you will have to do it again.”
Let’s switch gears a sec. It’s easy for me to put myself in the discipline-giver seat, since I’m the parent in the above scenario. Yet, how many times have I been the discipline-recipient because of my own poor choices? I don’t go around kicking doors, but if there’s a genetic link to smart-aleckness, then my kids come by it honestly. My attitude can get the best of me, at times.
Deuteronomy 8:5 and Hebrews 12:4-11 remind us that the Lord disciplines us like a loving parent – not for punishment’s sake alone, but so that we’ll learn and grow from the experience. Discipline should bring about the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” in our lives (Heb. 12:11, ESV). As painful as it may be to accept, that goes for us grownups as well as kids. What might God be trying to teach you, even now?
When one of my kids feels irritated, I remind them that their own response is as important as the offense. Food for thought for adults, too!
Ever felt mad at God? If so, do you think he’s surprised by your admission? Talk to him about it openly; he can handle your opinions.
A friend confided in me recently that she is angry with God because he has not yet delivered a loved one from the noose of alcoholism, despite her years of prayer. I struggled with how to respond, because even though I may think I understand a few things, God’s reasons and his thoughts are far beyond mine. For the record, I believe whole-heartedly that he is fully capable of delivering us from addictions, healing us of diseases and injuries, and intervening on our behalf in ways that we’ll never understand. And yet, I also believe that he allows us to make choices that are harmful because we are his beloved, not his puppets.
We could run in circles asking “Why God?” questions. Why didn’t you fix my marriage? Why didn’t you take away the cancer? Why didn’t you miraculously keep that accident from happening?
The short, honest answer is I don’t know. The four gospels are chock-full of stories of Jesus healing people, and yet he hints in John 9 that sometimes there are deeper meanings to our sufferings. Some of the stories are vague, like Matthew 4:23 (NIV), where it simply states that he healed “every disease and sickness among the people.”
In many instances, the healing is accompanied by praise and/or renewed purpose, like Matthew 8:14, where Simon Peter’s mother-in-law is healed from a raging fever, and she begins waiting on him. When Jesus healed the paralyzed man in Mark 2, the man took his mat and left; he didn’t sit back down and continue being crippled.
Think about all the times (and there were lots!) in the Old Testament when the Israelites cried out to God: “Deliver us!” … and he did. Then, they went back to their old ways, disobeying the Lord till they got sick of themselves and cried out again: “Deliver us!” … and he did. Round and round they went. How often do we get upset about problems in our lives that were self-inflicted?
God’s deliverance may end up looking like something completely different from what we were asking or expecting. Hold onto hope, even when it is hard to understand.
Do you ever get mad at God because you don’t have what you think you need (or want)? Is it his job to be at your beck & call?