STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees,
and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.”
During times of God’s chastening, or discipline, we all feel the weakness of our sinful flesh and have our moments of doubt and discouragement. In the verses before us, the writer to the Hebrews gives a vivid picture of what spiritual encouragement looks like under those circumstances. It’s like strengthening weak hands and feeble knees, “so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.” One could say it’s a lot like physical therapy.
When physical therapy is required, a person is in need of strengthening muscles that have become damaged, whether by physical overexertion, injury, or surgery. The therapy is necessary so that the damaged muscles do not lose their ability to function properly. Physical therapy works those muscles, testing them to perform better and better, so that they can become stronger. And yet the process of physical therapy itself can be horribly painful. Despite the pain, most would still appreciate the growth experienced each week—a greater range of motion, increased stamina, ability to lift more weight. In order for such growth to happen, though, the person has to endure the pain and struggle of the exercises. And without the aid of a physical therapist guiding and coaching the person on, most people would likely skip out on those important exercises altogether, leading to disastrous results.
When God disciplines His children, He is providing “faith therapy.” God knows that because of our sinful flesh, we are often lazy—especially when it comes to matters of our faith life. Just as muscles need to be exerted and exercised in order to grow and gain strength, so too does one’s faith. We also need someone to guide and push us in the growth of our faith, otherwise we will lazily try to just drift by. When the pain of God’s loving discipline comes along in the form of disaster or loss, hardship or heartache, then the Christian wants to go back to God’s Word for comfort in those distresses. In other words, God disciplines you with tests and trials, so that you will rely more heavily on the healing of His holy Word.
It is here where our analogy with the physical therapist falls apart. A good physical therapist does not want you to become more dependent on him, but less. He wants you to gain full use of your muscles so that you can take care of yourself. His job is complete when you go home self-sufficient. In contrast, the tests and trials God sends your way are not intended to make you more self-sufficient, but less so. Life’s trials humble us and prove just how weak we really are, but there in that weakness the almighty God comes to us in His Word with His power to strengthen our faith, to increase our reliance on Him.
Are you feeling the pain and weight of God’s discipline in your life? Are you needing the weak hands and feeble knees of your faith strengthened? Remember what God’s Word says. God gave His Son to die for you. God loves you and wants you to spend eternity with Him. His discipline is your faith therapy. “My soul melts from heaviness; strengthen me according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:28)
Chad Seybt is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming.