There’s a fine line between discipline & punishment. Discipline instructs in love; punishment is just penalties. See Deuteronomy 8:5.
Since we began these weekly posts nearly five years ago, I have been pretty transparent about grief and mourning, but I have tried not to dwell too much on my own personal life. However, the truth is that sometimes I have crummy days. I had a particularly rough day recently, and I whined and cried my frustrations to the Lord. I confessed something that had been on my heart for a long time, but I never mustered to courage to say it aloud until then: It feels like I’m being punished.
I’ll spare you the whole pity party, but suffice it to say that sometimes I feel like I have given everything I could possibly give, and then I’m expected to give even more. I go through periods where I feel unappreciated, taken advantage of, and excluded – sometimes simultaneously. It’s as if my life is not my own, but I’m responsible for damage control. That’s when I came across this passage from 1 Corinthians 4:9-13 (NLT):
“Instead, I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world—to people and angels alike. Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed. Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment.”
Whew, it’s like Paul was reading my mind! Jesus never promised that following him would be a bed of roses, and if you’ve read a feel-good book or heard a televangelist say otherwise, then I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
Why, then, would anyone want to follow Christ? I think Paul sums it up well later in the passage quoted above. In verse 20, he writes: “For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.” My life is not my own; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says that Jesus paid an expensive price for me. Though some days are hard, I stand firm in God’s power that is living in me, and that’s worth the rough times.
As I was getting close to finishing grad school, I remember the idea of writing my dissertation being very daunting. How do you just sit down and write 100+ pages? One of the best pieces of advice that I received during that time was: You don’t. You write a chapter, or a section of a chapter, or sometimes just a paragraph. You divvy up the project into bite-sized chunks to make it more manageable.
Sometimes, though, I would write and write and write, then look at my page count and realize it had barely budged. I would strum my fingers on the keyboard and ask myself, “How much longer will this take? How will I ever finish? I have so many people rooting for me; what if I fail?” Looking back in hindsight, of course, I’d like to tell that worrywart that she’s going to rock her dissertation; she’s going to graduate on schedule; and, she’ll even get a job offer of her dreams before it’s all said & done. 🙂
We’re only human, and it can be difficult to look beyond our current challenges and see the big picture in the future. If it makes us feel any better, we aren’t alone in our fretting. At least eight times in the book of Psalms (depending on the translation), the writer cried out, “How long?” to the Lord. King David would often beg God through poetry and song to spare his life when he was being pursued by his enemies, or forgive him when he felt God’s wrath hot on his neck for his sins. As I read the Psalms, I picture David cowering in a secret cave, scribbling his prayers by a campfire.
Do you realize that the same God who answered David’s prayers also listens to ours?
Is there something you are dealing with right now that you keep wondering how long until it is resolved? Don’t hesitate to take your concerns to the Lord, but don’t just dump them in prayer and then walk away. Spend time quietly listening for God to impress upon your heart what he might want you doing while you wait for the answer. Perhaps you are in a challenging situation at work, home, school, etc., and he wants to use you to be a witness to a specific person. Maybe your trial is a test of character, not a punishment. Whatever the situation, trust God to handle the details; you just be willing to listen and serve.
Do you remember a time as a kid or young adult when you knew you’d be busted for misbehavior? What did you learn from it?
How well does it set with you to hear that God disciplines us? Instead of thinking in terms of punishment, consider it faith-growing time.
I am looking forward to seeing the new Noah movie. I was going to wait until after I saw it to post something about it, but then I decided to go ahead and voice my initial opinion beforehand, so you’ll know why I even plan to see it. I am so sick & tired of fellow Christians getting their knickers in a wad over petty things. (That statement may tick off some people, but that just proves my point even further.)
The story of Noah spans roughly four chapters in the Bible (Genesis 6-9), not counting some genealogy mentioned in Chs. 5 & 10. Scarce little is known about the actual event, though Scripture is quite exacting when it comes to describing the ark and the timing of it all in relation to Noah’s age.
I have no doubt that the writers/producers took some poetic license with the screenplay. The movie includes extra-biblical characters and paints a morbid, violent picture of what The Creator did to the planet that he had handcrafted.
Well, duh. Starting in Genesis 6:5, we read that God was so disappointed in humankind that he regretted ever creating us. Ouch. There’s an age-old question that people still ask today: Why would a loving God punish us/allow bad things to happen/send people to hell/etc.? The answer is sin. We choose to turn our backs on God, to ignore or disdain the good plans that he has for us and trek off on our own selfish paths. My pastor is wont to say: “Every choice you make today affects every day for the rest of your life — and everyone else around you.”
Now, I’m not saying that every natural disaster is God’s punishment; don’t get me wrong. I’m just trying to explain that the story we read in Noah was the direct result of people defying God. Yes, it was tragic. It was awful. The story of Noah isn’t just a pastel nursery room decor theme. It’s a blight in human history. Yet, I also believed that it pained God and broke his heart to the core. It’s why God blessed Noah and created a new covenant with him in Genesis 9.
I don’t have a problem with a movie about Noah, even if it is more fiction than Bible-based. If one viewer decides to pick up a Bible – perhaps for the first time – and reads the story for him/herself, then that’s wonderful. Perhaps someone will leave the theater and think introspectively about their place in the world, and where they stand with the Lord.
Besides, people are talking about the Bible in mainstream conversations! How awesome is that?! I plan to take at least my older kids to see the movie, and I will spend time talking to them afterward to debrief and relate what we’ve seen to what’s in the Word. What are some important take-aways from the film? What parts were simply cinematography? What can we learn from it?
There are bigger battles to fight, brothers and sisters. Don’t get caught up in the hype and let irrational and misplaced “righteous anger” about a movie (or a book, or a TV program, or whatever happens to be the boycott-special of the month) serve as one more reason for nonbelievers to roll their eyes at us.