Sunday, March 6, 2011

Reflections from the book of John #16: It's for your own good . . .

I can't remember whether my mom or dad every disciplined me saying, "It's for your own good."  I don't think so.  Maybe I saw it on T.V.

You know the scene.  The kid has done something naughty.  It doesn't matter what.  And the parent stands above the child, about to administer a spanking, or maybe he/she has put the kid on restriction or taken away some kind of privilege and then says, "I'm doing this for your own good."  Another line might follow, "You'll thank me for this some day."

I certainly never said this to my own kids, but I thought it.

I needed to teach them to obey rules, to tell the truth, to be kind to consider others' feelings, to follow through on projects, and I administered multiple forms of discipline in order to make sure they learned these things.  I'm pretty sure some of these forms were ineffective and some were just stupid, but I can promise that I never did any of these things maliciously.  I believed my kids would be better off.

Incidentally, I don't know that they are thanking me for those days.  But that's another topic, and I don't consider myself an expert on childrearing.

Sometimes discipline involved requiring my kids to keep doing something they wanted to quit.  Jason and Kirsten wanted to quit gymnastics when it got hard.  Kirsten and Caitlin wanted to quit debate at midseason.  More than once.  Caitlin wanted to quit piano.  Every time I made them stick it out.  I think they actually do thank me for that.

Oh yeah, and sometimes kids don't want to eat vegetables.  They would rather have cookies.  And the mom or dad has to say, "No more cookies. Eat your _____________."  (Fill in the blank with broccoli or chicken or green beans.)

My point, and I really do have one, is that sometimes parents have a longer perspective as to what will benefit their kids and what will harm them. And sometimes they have to discipline them.  For their own good. And sometimes they have to require their kids to do something the kids don't want to do.

And I think God's like that.  He has a longer perspective than we do, and he knows what will benefit us and what will harm us.  Sometimes he disciplines us, and it's not pleasant.  And sometimes he requires us to do something we don't want to do.  And sometimes we have to walk through something we don't want to walk through.  And it's for our own good.  He knows what's best for us.

Remember, all through the book of John, Jesus hints that he will have to die, but he will rise gain from the dead.  And the disciples don't even question him because first they can't stand the thought that Jesus will die, and next, resurrection from the dead doesn't actually make any sense.

But in John 14-16, Jesus starts to get really serious about explaining this concept.  He tells them he's going to leave and it's for their own good.

  • He's going to prepare a place for them.  (John 14:1-3).
  • He'll come back for them. (John 1:3)
  • The Father will send a Counselor, the Holy Spirit, to live in them.  (John 14:15)
  • He leave them with peace and they shouldn't worry.  (John 14:27)
  • Troubles will come while he's gone and people will try to kill them.  (John 16:2-3)
Hmmm.  So far it doesn't sound that good.  

But Jesus says, "I've been telling you these things, and I know I'm kind of freaking you out, but this is the truth.  It's for your own good that I'm going away.  Because if I don't go away, the Holy Spirit won't come to live inside of you.  And when the Holy Spirit comes, he will guide you in truth, he will remind you about what I've been saying all along, and he'll reveal the Father's truth to you."  
  • If Jesus doesn't go, the disciples (and us) can't be filled with the Holy Spirit. 
  • If Jesus doesn't go, the Holy Spirit doesn't convict people of their sin. 
  • If Jesus doesn't go, the disciples won't want to leave Jerusalem to spread the good news.  And we all benefit from that one  
But they don't know that at the time.  All the know is that Jesus has brought life into their lives and they can't stand for him to leave.  

If you're a Christ follower, if you've spent much time reading Scripture, then you know this story pretty well and it makes perfect sense.  You know why Jesus had to die, you know he doesn't stay dead, and you know the Holy Spirit came, people were persecuted, and the Church spread across most of the known world.  Happy ending.  

But what about what you're going through right now?  You've lost your job and you wonder how you'll make ends meet.  Certainly this isn't for your own good.  Your son--or your daughter--is turning the house upside  down.  How is that for your own good?  How is that for your benefit?  Your marriage feels miserable, like you'll never be happy.  How is that good?  Or life just seems miserable, and you wonder why even continue.  

I don't know.  I can't answer the questions you're asking.  I do know that I've been through enough of those situations that I know God is faithful.  That he has a long perspective.  That sometimes the things that seem the toughest, the hardest to face, actually transform my life in surprising, joyful ways.  

And somehow in the process, we learn to trust the God who made us.  
We learn to rely on his faithfulness.  
We learn to lean on him when we don't understand.  

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