It is strange to me that even though we live in a culture defined by its love of “life hacks," nature itself teaches that in most cases, the severity of a process determines the quality of the product.

Rocks, for example, must be subjected to extreme pressure and high temperatures before they become diamonds. Craftsmen must endure the humiliations of apprenticeship if they ever up hope to be worthy of the title “Master.” Caterpillars must actually liquify in their cocoons before emerging as butterflies. 

And Christians, if we ever hope to “receive the crown of life” referred to in James, must also endure hardship. We too must expect to fall under the Lord’s corrective discipline.

Hebrews 12 communicates this process of discipline in surgical language, specifically to the rebreaking and resetting of a limb that isn’t growing right. No one’s going to argue that's a fun process - the writer himself reminds us that “no discipline seems pleasant at the time.” And yet, how we respond to this process can be the difference between a crippled limb and a healthy one.

Perhaps your recent weeks have been sown with seeds of disappointment. Perhaps you’ve recently lost someone dear to you. Perhaps you’re struggling through a difficult season of joblessness. Discipline has ceased to be a subject for abstract discussion — you are now in the middle of it.

What has your response in such trials revealed about your confidence? Do you find yourself instinctively trusting the divine wisdom of such a process? Or do you just find yourself wishing it were all over.

In the book of Lamentations, not only is the nation of Israel is crumbling around Jeremiah, but he has become the laughingstock - or even scapegoat - of his own people. It’s helpful to notice in chapter 3 that Jeremiah doesn’t soft pedal his disappointment with the circumstances; to him, God feels like a hungry bear on the road, or a nearby archer filling him full of arrows.

And yet in the midst of such devastating circumstances, perhaps even from the bottom of the well he's been thrown in, Jeremiah reminds himself of the truth:

For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. (Lam 3:31,32)

He moves from a place of resenting God’s discipline to a deep, personal awareness that such discipline is actually evidence of the Lord’s love. 

Our own understanding of circumstances may often lead us, like Jeremiah, to believe that God has abandon, or even turned against us. But passages like Proverbs 3:5 tell us that if we trust in the Lord with all our hearts, if we submit to His discipline, He will direct our paths. 

How do we get to a place of such total trust? One thing is certain - if we’re not sure of what’s actually true, we’ll never move anywhere. The way forward begins with acknowledging that, nine times out of ten, our most natural response to a difficult situation may not be the most trustworthy one; we must instead train ourselves to rest in what God’s Word tells us is actually true.

From this solid ground, we must cry out for help to move beyond knowing what’s true, to drawing strength from what’s true. We need the Spirit’s help here because leaning into trials, instead of running from them, goes against every self-protective mechanism we have. 

But what if true flourishing was only possible through pain? What if running from the discomfort of a reset bone means that the limb may never heal properly? What if the answer to trial lies in acknowledging that the Christian life involves fire — not raging, out of control, Roman fire, but measured, focused, soldering fire. The kind that welds and makes stronger. Divine fire. Purifying fire. 

In the midst of all our weakness, even our unbelief in the face of God’s discipline, isn’t it encouraging to know that the Spirit helps us? That He’s not even interested in self-sufficient, self-deluded, “strong” people? Our weakness - even our utter bewilderment in the midst of God’s discipline - is no obstacle for the grace of God.