How Can I Be Joyful When God Disciplines Me?
Joyful are those you discipline, LORD,
those you teach with your instructions.
When I hear the word “discipline,” a part of me winces. I don’t have a problem with the sound of the word, but rather its connotation. “Discipline” reminds me of unhappy times in my childhood, times when I was punished for doing something wrong. My parents were not unreasonably harsh with me, but, as you can imagine, I hated being disciplined.
As a parent, I have had to discipline my children. I don’t like this any better, to tell you the truth. Though, as a father, I realized that my kids needed to be disciplined for their own good, I still hated being the one who made them feel bad. Even and especially when I’m the one doling out discipline, I still dislike it.
So when I come upon Psalm 94:12, my visceral response is negative: “Joyful are those you discipline, Lord, those you teach with your instructions.” How can I be joyful when God disciplines me? Why should I be?
The word translated here as “discipline” (yasar in Hebrew), can mean “chastise” or “punish.” In verse 10, for example, it is used in the phrase “He punishes the nations,” which refers to God’s judgment. Yet the dominant sense of yasar is one of instruction. We see this in the parallelism of verse 12, where God’s discipline is lined up with God’s instruction. According to this psalm, there are times when God acts to punish his people, not out of vindictiveness, but out of a desire to instruct. God’s primary mode of discipline or instruction is teaching through his revelation.
To be sure, there are times when God’s instruction points out my sin. I have experienced the chastisement of God many times when I have read his Word with an open heart. Moreover, the Spirit of God convicts me of my sin more times than I would like to remember. Yet, when I remember that God’s discipline is for my own good, and that it is an expression of his parental care for me, then I can rejoice (well, at least, sort of). As it says in Deuteronomy 8:5: “Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.”
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you understand the motivation and goal of God’s discipline? Have you experienced God’s discipline in your life? When? How? What was the result? What helps you to receive the instruction that God wants to give you through his revelation?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, you know the notion of your discipline is an uncomfortable one for me. I don’t like being disciplined. Most of all, I hate feeling ashamed when I have failed. Perhaps the worst part of such discipline is having to confront my own shortcomings and bad choices.
Yet, as a parent, I now have greater understanding of how your discipline can be an act of love, tough love, at times, but genuine love. Thank you, Lord, for caring enough about me to discipline me. Thank you for instructing me through your Word, so that I might avoid more painful discipline yet to come. Help me, I pray, to receive your instruction with an open, willing, humble heart. Amen.
Here’s how . . . .
This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God (www.thehighcalling.org). You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling is associated with Laity Lodge, where I work.