Years ago a popular song by Christian artist Jeremy Riddle captured how many of us view (and indeed experience) our walk with The Lord. It said of God, “You draw me gently to my knees. And I am lost for words, so lost in love. I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered.”
I have had and relished those encounters, and we rightly praise God for His wooing and the gentle drawing of ourselves unto Him. The Bible tells us that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
However, there is a danger that we see this as the ONLY way a loving God would interact with His children. While we certainly do at times need our Heavenly Father’s loving embrace, there are other times when our obstinate pride requires chastisement. Just as children need both comfort and discipline from their earthly fathers, we need – and should expect – both from our Heavenly Father.
The same God who offers peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7) and who leads us to green pastures beside still waters (Psalm23) and who is an ever present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1) is also the God who called Job on the carpet for his complaints (Job 38), who had the disobedient Jonah swallowed by a giant fish (Jonah 1:17), and who refused to remove the “thorn in the flesh” from Paul (2 Corinthians 12).
Indeed, we are explicitly told in Hebrews 12:5-7 to expect that God not always deal with us so gently.
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?”
We relish in, seek after and rightly praise the gentle comfort of the Lord, but how often do we praise Him for His chastisement? Both are equally as loving.
In my early 20’s I had what was for me, at the time, a heart wrenching experience. The woman I expected to spend the rest of my life with dumped me. I had the jewelers crafting the perfect ring, and her best friends were conspiring with me to plan the perfect surprise. Then, the unthinkable occurred, and none of us saw it coming. Her closest friends were just as surprised as I was. My world was shattered.
At the time I was on the building staff of a church, and for some reason, after driving around town in the middle of the night trying to wrap my head around what had just happened, I ended up there. Since I had keys, I let myself in where I could be alone and think and found myself in the sanctuary where a stained glass image of the ascended Christ, lit by street lamps and moonlight, looked down at me.
And I snapped.
I was hurt and angry and turned that rage towards God in a profanity laden tirade. All the hurt and anguish I has been stewing over for the last few hours bubbled to the surface, and I gave voice to it all, directing it at that stained glass Messiah staring down at me.
And there, all alone in that dimly lit sanctuary, shaking my fist at my Creator, Lord and Savior, it was not a soft and gentle comforting mercy that drove me to my knees. When the Spirit fell on me, it was not the empowering and encouraging strength and peace I had felt many times before or since.
In that moment, as the Spirit of the Lord enveloped me, “peace” and “comfort” are not even close to what I felt. My awareness of my own sinfulness came rushing in. It was a soul crushing shame that I would dare approach the holy, sovereign King of Kings and Lord of Lords in such a way.
I did not hear an audible voice booming from Heaven, but the unmistakable sense that overwhelmed me was along the lines of “Who do you think you are?”
Suddenly the usually comforting awareness that God intimately knows me, was no longer comforting, and I wished I could relate to what some refer to as the “hiddenness of God”. At that moment God was certainly not hidden, even though I wished that I could be.
God is sovereign, and holy, and righteous, … and the way we often describe His glory is to refer to God’s “majesty”. He is awe inspiring to consider.
You know what other things are majestic and awe inspiring?
- The view of the Grand Canyon from atop the edge looking down.
- The feeling of soaring through the clouds in an airplane, looking at the beauty of nature sprawling beneath you.
- The raw beauty and power of a storm front in the distance, dark clouds starkly contrasted by clear sky, with lightning flashes lighting up the sky.
You know what all of those things have in common? Absolute terror when you realize just how small and helpless you are before their power.
- Step too close to the edge of the Grand Canyon, and you find your stomach in your throat at the thought of slipping
- The exhilaration of flight vanishes pretty quick when facing the reality of turbulence and rough weather, knowing you are powerless against the force of gravity if something goes wrong.
- The beauty of a storm is forgotten when your find yourself at the mercy of the thrashing wind and explosive power of a lightning bolt striking nearby.
And so it is with the majesty of an awe inspiring holy and loving creator God. He indeed beautiful and glorious to behold … be He is also sovereign and just and powerful and worthy of all praise.
And rather than the praise I owe to Him, I gave Him anger and scorn in the form of a 23 year old throwing a temper tantrum blaming his Father for not letting him have his way.
The comfort and peace and joy of my loving Father would come. However, at that moment, in my pain and rage, it was my pride and sense of entitlement that God dealt with. In that moment as I encountered the Spirit of the holy, righteous, and sovereign King of Glory, I become painfully and ashamedly aware of my error, and it crushed me.
“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful …”
But as a lay there humbled and weeping, not only for my heartbreak but even more so over my sin and shame, as all my energy was spent and I had no more anger to vent, I felt the loving embrace of my Heavenly Father. I felt the peace that surpasses understanding.
“… nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
A loving father looks to the needs of his children. He cannot always give them what they want or what will make them feel good at the moment. Just as it is the role of our earthly fathers to train us to be adults, our Heavenly Father is training us to walk in holiness.
At the time, my ego and my pride were what stood in the way of my journey in towards holiness and my relationship with God. At that moment, I did not a soft and gentle reassurance. I would not have received it had it been offered. Due to my fallenness and rebellious, sinful pride I had placed myself in opposition to God.
The lesson I needed was how to be humble in times of heartache. And so God humbled me. And while His chastisement was not pleasant at the time, afterward it yielded the peaceable fruit of righteousness.