I was not an attractive person an hour ago. Facing my draining bank account and what feels like a slew of rejected job applications, I flipped into my default mode of “Panic, whine, repeat.” Verbal shrapnel flew, and there were several casualties. At this point in the ‘starving graduate student’ game, I’m scared; I’m scared to be in debt. I’m scared to work at a job that is a poor fit for me as I did last year, to the detriment of my already tenuous grip on sanity. Essentially, my security is feeling threatened; my sense of control is being shaken (which shows you how much I idolize it, as my current situation is still better than that of at least 85 percent of the world’s population).
After taking out some aggression on my much-neglected kitchen floor, I was able to calm my mind enough to return to my room and do what I should have done in the first place: pick up my Bible. I flipped to Hebrews, which is one of my all time favorite books, and ended up in chapter 12.
Hebrews 12: 1-11 (NASB)
Jesus, the Example
1Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
A Father’s Discipline
4You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;
5and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
“MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD,
NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;
6FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES,
AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”
7It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
8But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
9Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?
10For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.
11All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
When I was younger, I tended to read the word “discipline” in this passage in the conventional sense of “getting your butt kicked because you did something wrong.” But I think any good parent will tell you that discipline involves much more than punishment and is more akin to the idea found in Proverbs 22:6, that of training a child in the way he should go. Things are hard right now because life is hard. But to a much greater degree, they are hard because I’m not nearly as holy as I like to pretend, and God is training and pushing and sculpting me into a more refined version of myself, into the version He envisioned when He first created mankind.
There may be a variety of reasons I don’t have a job right now. Perhaps God is pushing me to take a risk and apply for a job that I think I’ll hate, but He knows I’ll love. Maybe there’s a job out there I would hate, but in which God wants to place me to encourage someone else. God is certainly helping to prepare me for the future, in which I want to live in wild generosity, by teaching me not to place my sense of security in money. There may be a variety of good reasons why things are the way they are right now, but if I’m truly wanting to live a life surrendered to Christ, the details and “why’s” of my situation are unimportant. All I need to know is that God is God, and what I’m going through at this particular moment has been hand-selected by Him as the best way to make me more like Him–and all this because He loves me.