Hebrews 12 is designed to strengthen those discouraged in their faith. The audience behind the book of Hebrews were disillusioned. Life was as easy or as happy as they thought it would be. It had become difficult and painful.
Hebrews 12 is filled with encouragements to trust God, but the admonition of vv 5-12 stood out to me. The writer of Hebrews gives us two metaphors for how God directs our lives.
Metaphor 1: God is like a coach. The way that a muscle grows when you exercise is that it is first broken down so it can later be built up. Exercise actually tears your muscles, but then new muscle develops in those tears, and you get bigger.
When you work out, you don’t feel stronger. In fact, usually you feel weaker! But over time, even though you feel miserable during your workouts, you grow stronger. It’s the same way with faith. The muscle of your faith will never grow if it is never tested and broken down.
A lot of times this doesn’t make sense to us, but the trainer often knows what’s coming when the athlete doesn’t. I remember hearing about Michael Phelps’ coach one day in practice reaching into the water and snapping the goggles off of Phelps’ head, stomping on them, and telling Phelps to keep going. It didn’t seem to make sense at the time, but when Phelps had a goggle malfunction in 2008 and couldn’t see, he was prepared. “I had been through this before, and knew to count the strokes to the wall,” he said. His coach had prepared him for something that he didn’t see coming.
This can be difficult, but if we are Christians, God is coaching us to mold us to be like Him. It may not make sense right now, but we can still trust Him. Just because it’s not your plan doesn’t mean it’s not a good plan. God sometimes answers our prayers by giving to us what we would have asked for had we known what He knows.
Metaphor 2: God is a good father. A good father disciplines his children not to avenge his anger, but to mold their character. What is done is done in love. If you are a believer, God is never paying you back for your sin, avenging the wrong-doing, because Jesus absorbed the full curse of your sin. Nothing of that punishment is left for you. In your pain, God might be trying to bring you back, but He is not paying you back. That’s an important distinction.
Do you trust that in all things God has a loving goal He is pursuing? If you do, you can know that in every inconvenience, every broken heart, every disappointment, every tragedy, God is making you into something too wonderful to comprehend fully now.