God's Containment System
My pastor, Mack Jarvis, www.cornerstonenc.org gave an awesome message this past weekend on suffering and how to deal with it. I wish I could take credit for his brilliant opening illustration, but I can't. The weight loss drug ALLI is an over the counter pill that causes your body not to metabolize the fat that you take in. If you don't metabolize the fat obviously it comes out of your body the old fashioned way. ALLI however has side effects, uncontrolled flatulence and bowel movements and they company has renamed them "treatment effects". Even to the point that if you take ALLI, make sure you keep dark clothes with you just in case! That is classic!
Mack went on to say that there are also side effects with life, discouragement, job loss, broken relationships and the like. we've all experienced these things. Many times believers go through "treatment effects" in our relationship with God that we just don't understand.
Mack talked about the different kinds of suffering that we experience. The suffering we bring upon ourselves by being stupid like driving a car when we are drunk. He also talked about the suffering as a result of a broken world, the cancers and hurricanes, you know the stuff that is just a product of the world being infected by sin.
And one of the hardest to understand is the discipline of God. The bible clearly tells us that He disciplines those He loves. This idea became crystal clear to me today as I have purchased a wireless containment system for our fuzzy little dog Sophie. She is a great little dog, but prone to wander. I've seen one of my dogs get hit by a car and I'm not about to see that or let my children see that horrific event again. Sophie wandered into the neighborhood behind us yesterday investigating the sounds of children ecstatically screaming in some backyard game.
To Sophie it was all harmless enough, but to me and Tammy it was absolutely dangerous and deadly. Because we know what is in the roads around our house. Large self-propelled machines that can kill little dogs in a fraction of second.
So we bought today a shock collar for Sophie. Its an ingenious device, wireless and easy to set up. There are no cables to bury and you are training in a matter of moments. We took Sophie outside on her leash and eased her up to the flags that are placed at the edge of the invisible force field. We deliberately take her into the danger area to let her get a little shock.
And...she did...it was traumatic. She yelped and ran back towards the house. But then I got an unexpected reaction. As I approached her, the dog who greets me every day wagging her tail and licking my hand, was deathly afraid of me. She tucked her tail between her legs and ran to the front porch in terror. I was thinking, "maybe this shock thing wasn't such a great idea"
But then I remembered the car that hit my other dog. I remembered the hurt that I felt. I realized that the temporary pain that my little dog went through was for her own good, keeping her from something that could kill her. But guess what, I cannot explain that to her. She just does not understand me. My words mean nothing to her. She has no capacity to understand my reasons for setting up the shock collar. She still does not understand and maybe never will. But I understand that by doing this and setting these boundaries I am setting the stage for our little dog to live.
I suspect that is much the way God interacts with us. He sometimes sets painful boundaries that we have no capacity to understand. We look up in the sky and wonder why we are going through the pain that we are going through. I suspect that even if God did explain it to us we'd be alot like Sophie, still wondering what in the world this massive being is talking about. Psalm 94:12, Proverbs 3:11, and Hebrews 12:6 just to name a few are verses of Scripture that point us to the loving hand of God that disciplines. Its not punishment, discipline leads to life, it is correction from an errant course. It is the boundary line of God's love to save us from ourselves.
But when we learn God's boundaries, life follows. I think that I can live with that.