Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
— Psalm 51:8
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
— Hebrews 12:3–6
One year my youth group decided that I would love it if they threw me a surprise birthday party instead of having our regular youth meeting. I had a stressful week and was already feeling overwhelmed, so when it is time to set up for the youth group, no one was ready to make it happen. Volunteers were not working to prepare, the band was not practicing, the sound team was dragging its feet in anticipation of the coming surprise. I did not feel that same anticipation. I felt frustrated. As our meeting was getting closer, I could feel myself getting angrier and more frustrated. I felt like I was the only one working hard to make this happen and that the night was going to be terrible. It was so bad that, even when the party started, I was still frustrated and had a terrible time.
Lots of believers feel this way in their relationship with God. This is why Paul tells them at the beginning of Hebrews 12 to look to Jesus (follow his example) so that they will not grow weary.
The author of Hebrews understands that they are enduring some difficult things as believers. Some of those things, they probably don’t understand. But if they had fixed their eyes on Jesus, familiarized themselves with his life, his work, and the things he said, they probably would have understood that their sufferings were not a surprise. They were to be expected.
Sometimes we are surprised by our sufferings too, aren’t we? But look to Jesus, who endured for us. Listen to the things he says to us in his word and see things clearly:
- You will have trouble in this world.
- We are blessed when we are persecuted.
- He has overcome the world, and enduring makes you like him.
We also learn in this passage that God uses difficulties to make us better. Like a father disciplines his children, not because he wants to see them suffer, but because he wants to make them better.
When we learn to look to Christ and not our struggles, then everything starts to make sense. We know that the day will come where we will be able to look back and see that God used those things to make us better, and like David, we can rejoice for the bones that he has broken. Not just because it made us better, but because it shows that we belong to him.