There have been times in my life that have been very difficult. While I was going through those times I cried buckets full of tears. I would pray out the desires of my heart and feel like God was not listening at all. I’m sure you have experienced horrible times like these. While we are going through them, we think God has abandoned us and we can’t see any way out. Later on, however, we see God’s loving hand was on us the whole time.
Hebrews 12:11 talks about a time like this. When I read it in the past, I paid attention to the first part and the last. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” I want the righteousness and peace without the discipline and pain. But desiring righteousness and peace without being willing to live through the discipline is having it backwards. So it is important for us to pay attention to that transition phrase: “later on, however.”
When I look back on the events of my life, I find that the times of greatest pain were also the times I grew closest to God. I’ve learned to accept the lessons that God’s discipline can teach me. During one particularly difficult year in ministry, God kept giving me the Bible verse John 15:2, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” The verse didn’t make the pruning easier to bear, but it did give me hope that God was doing something greater. Sometimes our greatest tragedies lead to our greatest triumphs.
Think about your own life. What have been your times of greatest pain? When has God disciplined you? Looking back now, can you see how he was preparing you for something greater, something different, something more? Later on, however . . .
Pharaoh rules over Moses and has all the power. Later on, however . . .
Babylon crushes Judea and carries the people away into exile. Later on, however . . .
Jesus is crucified and buried in the tomb. Evil has triumphed and the disciples despair. Later on, however . . .
What are the hard, the difficult things in your life today? Do not despair. Hold on to Jesus Christ and wait. Wait, and hope, and listen, and be faithful. He is working in you and working on you. And – “later on, however” is still ahead.