The desires of good people lead straight to the best,
but wicked ambition ends in angry frustration.
The world of the generous gets larger and larger;
the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. Proverbs 11:23-24 (The Message)
Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? Hebrews 12:7 (NRSV)
God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Hebrews 12:7 (The Message)
So the question Hebrews 12 leaves this reader with is this: does God discipline? Specifically, does God discipline through punishment – sending us trials to teach us a lesson? I do not believe so. While the parent/child metaphor is a good one for our relationship with God, like any metaphor, especially as they relate to God, it begins to break down.
I don’t believe God causes bad things to happen to teach us. Now, trials do happen. I am tried as a consequence of my own actions; I am tried as the result of the ill will of another; I am tried by the simple chaos of the universe. And, yes, I have the opportunity to learn from those tests and trials. I have the opportunity to be disciplined by those tests and trials. However, I do not believe God, however sends them. Instead, God stands beside me as I face them, training me and forming me. In fact, if anything, I believe God, in God’s grace, protects and keeps me from some of those trials.
How do you feel about the “trials” you face? Does God send them? What is their purpose?