Have you ever had one of those "light bulb" moments -- where something that you overlooked or thought you understood before suddenly takes on a striking new meaning to you? I've just had that happen!
I read a passage in Hebrews the other day that I know I've read many times before. But this time I read it with new eyes, and with the knowledge of what lies on the path ahead. In the context of enduring all manner of hardship as discipline, the author writes this:
For [our earthly fathers] disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.Do you see that last sentence? How is it this never clicked with me before?! I've read plenty about rejoicing in our suffering (which seems backward enough), and even grasped the concept that hardship is purifying. But this just gave rise to a sudden moment of clarity: something became clear that had been veiled in mystery before.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
Let me see if I can explain. We get that we should endure hardship as discipline, because this is for our good. Hardship trains us, and eventually will yield the "peaceful fruit of righteousness."
The last sentence expands on this. If I'm reading this correctly, the author is basically saying this: Hardship will come, so make sure you are ready for it. Take care not to forget what you already know about living a righteous life (i.e., walking the "straight path": obeying God's commands, trusting His promises, even when it seems like none of it makes sense). This hardship will train and strengthen and heal those weak parts of you if you let them, but they also have the potential to weaken and injure if you're not walking the straight path. So be on your guard to make sure injury doesn't happen.
The author understands that hardship can affect us in one of two ways: the healing and "peaceful fruit of righteousness" way, or the "put out of joint" way. We know hardship will come for each of us. None of us is exempt. The best we can do is to prepare ourselves, doing everything in our power to see that our hardship makes us more like Christ, rather than allowing it to maim us when it comes.
One of the many reasons I write all these things in a blog is to remind myself, and to invite you to remind me of what I already know when our feet are to the fire. I do this so those weak parts of me won't be put out of joint, but rather strengthened and healed. Healed, I tell you. That's what the author of Hebrews says is one of the fruits of being trained by hardship.
Even though I cannot fathom how this experience has the potential to be healing, I want to invite God to do that.
Will you walk with me?