We now arrive at Proverbs 3:1-12, but we must begin our study with the end of the section.
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
Or be weary of his reproof,
For the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
As a father the son in whom he delights (Prov 3:11-12, ESV)
To understand how God uses our disappointment to draw us closer to him through Christ, we must see four things.
1. The Lord will discipline and reprove those he loves. Prov 3:12 is clear: “the Lord reproves him whom he loves.” What we consider to be disappointing circumstances, God considers to be disciplining love. God’s discipline is not optional. It is selective in that it applies only to those he loves, but it is comprehensive in that it applies to all those he loves. In a previous post, we saw that God judges people by giving them what they want rather than what he wants. Now we see the flip side: that God blesses people by giving them what he wants rather than what they want. God will not give you what you want; he will give you what you need. This is disappointing, but it will train you to expect what God expects, to desire what God desires. It will be a long road, but his discipline will draw you closer to him.
2. You will be tempted to despise the Lord’s discipline and grow weary of it. Nobody likes to feel disappointed. That’s why he commands you not to despise it or grow weary of it (Prov 3:11). When God’s discipline comes, it will not make you feel good. It won’t put the joy, joy, joy, joy down in your heart. You won’t brag about how much God is blessing you. No discipline is immediately pleasant. When your bank account is empty or people don’t like you or your love life isn’t all you’d hoped it would be, you’re not going to feel great about it. But when it drives you away from yourself and back to the Lord, it will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:11). Turning to the Lord helps you not to despise his loving, protective, concerned discipline.
3. You must choose not to despise the Lord’s discipline. Fight the temptation to despair over your situation. Be prepared for the Lord’s discipline to come again and again and again and again until you’re made perfect in heaven with Jesus. Don’t get worn down by it. Don’t loiter in your self-pity. Don’t cave to disappointment by spiraling in & down or out & around. Make a different choice: the choice to reinterpret your disappointing circumstances.
4. You must reinterpret your disappointing circumstances; you must revisit your view of God. Unmet expectations are evidence of God’s delighted love for you. God is neither hostile nor disinterested; he is your loving father. Acknowledge that God is better than you are at knowing what’s best for you. Thank him for proving his love by giving you what you need instead of what you want. Let your disappointment draw you closer to him. If you trust in Jesus, God is not out to get you. He is your doting father, and you are his precious beloved child. God hasn’t met your expectations because he has something better in mind.
In short: When life doesn’t go the way YOU want it to go, it’s because God loves you more than you can imagine. Don’t ever let your circumstances affect what you know to be true about the Lord. As my friend Brian is fond of saying, “Remember that God loves you, and Jesus is the proof.”
A loving father might take his child to Disney World, but he wouldn’t ever leave him there. It wouldn’t be good for the child’s well-being, and the child wouldn’t even enjoy the experience. The money would run out long before the happiness did, and what then? But what child is aware of what’s truly good for him when he’s pleading for another day at the park? His contentment might return only when he adopts his loving father’s mature perspective on the matter.