And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
One of the most difficult and persistent false beliefs is that “good” people are meant to enjoy a pleasant life. It leads us to ask questions like “why do bad things happen to good people?” The assumption is that we deserve to happy, healthy, and wealthy. We even use God as a means to gain prosperity. We twist and pervert scripture in order to give ourselves a justification for thinking that God’s purpose for us is to be “successful.” This is the central problem in the book of Job.
What we read, though, shows us that the bad things that happen are very much a part of the life that God has for us. We cannot necessarily conclude that suffering and disappointment are punishment for something we did wrong. Indeed, verse 11 of the same chapter in Hebrews tells us that the chastening we receive is ultimately for the purpose of our righteousness. The suffering we endure is a means towards that end. We know that God allowed Job to go through the pain of losing his children and his own health to purify his heart and show him that he needed the Lord far more than he realized.
There is no way that God can accomplish His work in us without trying our faith. We will never learn and mature if we refuse to heed a rebuke. Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.” People who are too arrogant to listen to feedback never learn from their mistakes. This is true in any area of life, but especially in the spiritual life. We are not perfect and there is much room for improvement, which means there are many lessons God needs to give us.
Instead let us “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” A friend of mine told me a story about how he learned that the key to getting many tomatoes to ripen on a plant is to water it as little as possible. You give it a good soak when you plant it and then only water when you see obvious signs of distress. God is a gardener and, going back to Hebrews 12:11, wants to yield the “peaceable fruit of righteousness” in us. It always seems grievous and hard at the time but we can cling to the hope that God will sustain us and make the suffering worth it by doing a marvelous work in us. The Hebrews wandering in the wilderness always doubted whether God would deliver them this time. We should remind ourselves of all the previous times that God has provided and trust that He will do so again. He does not forsake the righteous.