“A cross that comes purely from God – and is cordially welcomed without any self-reflective acts – is both painful and peaceful. In contrast, if such a cross is unwillingly received and is repelled by the life of nature, it becomes doubly severe. In fact, our own internal resistance is harder to bear than the cross itself…” Fenelon
How do we endure and thrive in this crazy cross-cultural life?
How do we run this race with endurance?
After all, this life is not a sprint, it isn’t primarily about using our fast twitch muscles to run the 100 M, this life is a long, plodding marathon of mixed terrain. Sometimes there are beautiful views and downhill runs, sometimes the land is flat and mundane and comfortable, there are even those times of long, uphill runs in the heat of the afternoon under the scorching sun which we barely survive.
There are a lot of ways that we can answer these questions and I bet we all have varying ideas based on our varying experiences and they are probably ideas that will evolve and change as we evolve and change as people. We are always growing, always changing, always learning deeper meanings behind the gospel and the grace of Christ.
The longer that I am here the more willing I am to say that I am under the discipline of God and I believe that this is directly tied to how I endure and persevere in my time living in this transitional, cross-cultural life.
Now the word discipline can hold a lot of meanings for people but generally speaking, we tend to view discipline primarily as punishment. Discipline occurs when we have done something wrong and if we had only been good we would not have to endure the discipline.
This translates to how we view the discipline of God in our life. When we find ourselves under his discipline we assume that we must be doing something wrong that deserves to be punished and there is this frantic search to seek out which character trait God is trying to change in us so that we can quickly overcome the pain.
Once we learn the lesson we will be freed from the trial.
Imagine my surprise as I’ve been studying Hebrews to read through the 12th chapter and hear the writer connect discipline with endurance and joy.
What if discipline isn’t about punishment at all? What if it isn’t trying to beat the bad out of us? What if God’s discipline is focused training on our souls to strengthen us for the coming terrain? Much like we would train for an actual marathon. It’s hard, it’s painful and somedays we want to quit but with the finish line in mind, with the gold medal at hand, we are willing and able to joyfully endure the sore muscles, the dehydration, the injuries because we know the end goal and we desire to get there.
At this moment I am sitting at my dining room table, with no electricity, muggy with sweat, feeling the sadness and frustration that comes from being asked for money once again, missing my family, all the while listening to the sounds that come from the call to prayer. I’m tired. I’m weak. I’m hurting.
I want to rail at God for piling one more stressor on my plate when I feel like I am barely holding on, but tonight I won’t. Not because I am holy, or righteous in my own right, or altogether mature. Tonight I feel a peace within the sadness, a peace that comes from letting God’s discipline train my soul.
Ultimately the discipline of God, while painful in the process, WILL yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness in our lives as we allow ourselves to be trained by it.
This peace comes from holding fast to the confidence we have to approach an all-powerful God without shame.
A peace that knows Christ died once for all and no other sacrifices are necessary because the blood of Christ has the power to save.
A peace that knows the stories of those who have come before us and how they were afflicted too and yet endured.
A peace that comes from the knowledge that God is still working and that his discipline of our souls is an act of love he only gives to his own kids.
Tonight I’m happy to be his kid.
This truth allows me to bow under the pressure of discipline, continuing forward with my eyes on the prize, namely Jesus Christ himself, knowing that at the end of it all there will be gain. The gain of peace that only comes through accepting the discipline that God so lovingly provides.
What thoughts or ideas come to mind when you think of God’s discipline?
How have you recognized God’s discipline in your life?
How can we learn to accept the discipline of our souls with joy?